BERKELEY HEIGHTS, NJ - The dangers of vaping have been all over the news. People are being warned of carcinogens present in vapes. But manufacturers keep producing new devices. Some of those devices are being made to look like everyday items, even school supplies. NBC's Today Show filmed a feature segment at Governor Livingston that aired on October 10, called “Can You Spot the Vape?” The segment was part of an investigative series, and their goal was to target manufacturers of these vaping devices.
The segment tasked teachers and parents with spotting the school supply-like vaping devices the crew of the Today show provided and hid on students desks. Each was given one minute to find 14 devices that looked liked ordinary item: from backpacks and sweatshirts to key rings, USB drives and highlighters. Five was the most items that any person was able to identify.
The five minute story also included a brief interview with the Berkeley Heights Public School Superintendent Dr. Melissa Varley to address concerns regarding vaping in schools.
The group of students and faculty that were asked to be involved did not know beforehand what would be asked of them at the filming. The faculty and parents were separated from the students, who were in a classroom with the camera crew, producers, and Today Show investigative reporter Vicky Nguyen.
The students who participated in the filming ranged from 8th graders from Columbia Middle School to seniors in high school in order to give an accurate representation of the Berkeley Heights student body.
Senior Pranav Casula said that before being filmed he was excited but also confused. “I did not know what was going to happen.” The vaping device disguised on his desk was a working pen, which made it hard to distinguish as a vape. The program revealed the many ways companies are advertising these products as well as the naiveté of the public in being able to identify these products, a problem that both parents and educational professionals face.
The faculty and parents were alarmed by the results. Paraprofessional and parent John Foster is a retired police officer, yet he was shocked to see how many devices were actually hidden in the classroom. He noted that the market has expanded so quickly and how being uninformed “can allow the epidemic to continue.”
All volunteers agreed how scary it was to see the ways vaping devices were disguised, and how easy it is for people to have access to them. Although Physical Education teacher Lisa Moretti was apprehensive about filming the segment, she found the results eye-opening. It made her realize that not only are the side effects of vaping very dangerous, but it is very important for caregivers to educate themselves on the topic as they are “concerned for [the students’] safety.”
NBC’s Today Show segment revealed one aspect of the vaping epidemic. Although these big companies say they aren’t marketing products towards younger customers, they do produce them to look like everyday items a student would use. And if parents and educators who are with kids for the majority of the day have trouble identifying these devices, could you?