As summer came to a bittersweet end, the back to school season inevitably crept up on us, bringing with it to students around the world a multitude of change. We sadly traded in 3 am Netflix binges for seemingly endless assignments, strategically fortified by similarly ceaseless amounts of iced coffee. We were overtaken by assemblies, Welcome Back Day, and copious amounts of enthusiasm from the administration about their hopes for the year. But perhaps most notably this year, we said goodbye to the doors on our bathrooms, as wood was swapped in for modern, sleek, and extraordinarily controversial clouded glass.
“But perhaps most notably this year, we said goodbye to the doors on our bathrooms, as wood was swapped in for modern, sleek, and extraordinarily controversial clouded glass.“
The change in material used to construct the SAS high school’s bathroom doors was met with a mixed bag of reactions, countless memes, and even a (since deleted) Reddit page detailing the situation and asking for outside opinions. The verdict? All over the place.
Despite having comparatively harsh sentencing, Singapore is no exception in the global community from the widespread epidemic of e-cigarette use and vaping, especially amongst teenage youth. The creation and popularization of the Juul in particular led to vaping becoming relatively mainstream, and soon the small devices reminiscent of USB drives became revered amongst students and despised amongst parents and teachers.
Singapore American School has implemented a variety of strategies to combat the illicit usage of e-cigarettes and vapes, both on-campus and off. A multitude of PSAs about the legalistic and health repercussions of vaping have been disseminated to in the form of seminars, emails, announcements, and even changes in school policy. In a recent email to student and parents, school principal Stephen Ly voiced that he is “really, really worried about the legal and health risks to students” that vaping poses, calling the amounts of people hospitalized over aforementioned mystery illness “disturbing”.
“To be honest with you, I literally could not give less of a s***.” This was the (quite apathetic) response of one 10th grade student when asked about the change in doors. This student felt that glass doors on the bathroom were simply that: doors. The student felt that the issue was quiet, and that the backlash surrounding the renovations were overdramatized and unnecessarily debated. And yet aside from this individual’s indifferent opinion, the majority of SAS students had more polarizing opinions on the subject. The most common view, echoed by an SAS 11th grade student, was that is was an “invasion of privacy” and “ineffective to solving the actual issue at hand”, many voicing concerns for the students that changed in the bathrooms for sports or PE classes. However, some, including another SAS 10th grader, felt that it was a decision that was “necessary and called for”, and that the administration is just “attempting to protect the students at SAS.”
This year, the SAS administration took their concern for the issue of e-cigarette use one step further, and this materialized itself in the form of glass replacing bathroom doors across the high school. While no official announcement regarding the change was put out, the news spread almost instantaneously amongst the student body, kids throughout the high school taking to a variety of social media platforms (mainly Snapchat and Instagram) to voice their opinions, criticisms, and concerns about the change.
With flavors that appealed to teens such as bubble gum and strawberry lemonade, as well as the explosion of social media accounts focused on the newest vapes, flavors, and tricks, it wasn’t difficult for companies like Juul to garner a dedicated audience amongst the younger demographic. And as easy as it was to for vaping companies to pull teens in, it was even easier to keep them there, with each pod containing the nicotine content equivalent of a pack of cigarettes. According to Dr. Peter Zeblisky from the Martin Health Physician Group, “While the health effects of inhaling these ingredients aren’t well-known, one thing is certain: nicotine is a highly addictive substance — and each hit of the JUUL packs quite the nicotine punch.”
“And as easy as it was to for vaping companies to pull teens in, it was even easier to keep them there“
And while the health impacts of vapes, particularly Juuls, have been theorized about for years, they’ve recently come under increasingly intense scrutiny as reports of a mystery illness linked to vaping and e-cigarette use continue to come rolling in. US health departments, as well as the CDC and FDA, are currently examining the health impacts of e-cigarette use as more than 450 cases of this mystery lung illness have been reported across the US. The outbreak has resulted in calls for e-cigarettes and vapes to be recalled until further information and explanations can be discovered, with both President Trump and his wife voicing their support for a crackdown on e-cigarette use.
As of right now, multiple states have moved to restrict or ban vapes, specifically Juuls. The CEO of Juul subsequently stepped down, and expressed its willingness to cooperate with the government on the necessary steps to ensure that citizens, particularly youth, are protected.
Of course, there will always be differences in opinion on the best course of action surrounding any given issue, especially at a school as large and diverse as Singapore American School. Irregardless of opinion on the bathroom doors, SAS as a school needs to continue to strive to communicate and find the best outcome for everyone involved to tackle the issues our society and our generation as a whole face.