Why are students tasked with solving Schreiber’s smoking problem?


Leah Taylor, Sports Editor

Smoking in high school: the seemingly unsolvable problem that has plagued administrators, teachers, and parents alike for decades. When courtyards, stairwells, and, more recently, bathrooms have transformed into centers for vaping, the problem turns from a concern into a crisis. The question remains: what should the school do about it?

“You can’t go into the bathroom without [seeing] some kid vaping,” said sophomore Dylan Schor.  “It’s honestly disconcerting and makes the bathroom-going experience uncomfortable.  I hope the administration continues to try and find the perfect solution to combat this problem.”

This issue has been present for years, especially at Schreiber. In the 1970s, smoking marijuana and cigarettes at Schreiber became so prominent that The New York Times published an investigation on the “Port Washington Problem.” The school, too, experienced students smoking in the bathroom, in between classes, and after school, just like how it sees the rise in vaping and juuling today.

In 1970, members of Schreiber’s Kiwanis Club, now known as the Key Club, began an “Operation Drug Alert.” The students posted flyers and informative sheets throughout the school.

Almost a half a century later, the Students Against Destructive Decisions (SADD) is taking the same steps in the same bathrooms and on the same walls with the same goal: to stop any smoking and to warn students of the long-term consequences of their actions and addictions.

SADD has widespread posters, daily announcements, and ambitious initiatives, with posters reading that vaping will significantly increase an individual’s chances of having a midlife heart attack. Meanwhile, others notify students of the fact that e-cigarettes contain toxic metals. From these posters, it is clear that they hope to instill fear in both users and potential users. However, while it is indeed important to illustrate the full harms of detrimental decisions, should this be the main approach taken by the school?

Are students really that unaware of potential risks when they decide to juul or vape? Are warning signs created by teenagers in the bathroom the most effective means to stop them? In the 1970s, when instead of pods the issue was cigarettes and marijuana, it was not.

Then, too, students saw these figures posted by their peers in the Kiwanis Club working alongside the police department. According to one student mentioned in The New York Times article, who was referred to as Sheepskin for the sake of anonymity, all the students saw on such signs was information about those “dangerous drugs” that they were already familiar with.

Yet, what the students really wanted to know were the facts and not the scare techniques.

Are students today really so different from their parents? Are high schoolers so evolved that they are not driven by the same curiosity and motivations?

These posters are a step in the right direction. Students are taking initiative in solving a problem they see plaguing the school. Students need to fully understand immediate consequences to their health and to what they value. However, it was not effective 50 years ago, and if the school does not want to see the same results, it needs to be taking further action.

Unlike the 1970s, during which the school decided to take the “no drive on drugs” initiatives, Schreiber and the New York State Government are fortunately taking action. It is illegal for minors to buy nicotine products, and vaping or juuling in school results in suspension.

“In the blink of an eye, vaping has become ubiquitous among teenagers just as we have mainly eradicated the use of traditional tobacco products,” said senior Benji Aranoff.

The problem is that the most public information against this problem is put forth by 13 to 17 year olds. They are not psychologists; they do not know the best ways to persuade adolescents. Telling students to “have a heart attack” if they vape and asking students “are you listening?” every morning is not the way to help those with legitimate problems or addictions.

As SADD says on its most cited flyer, “it’s an epidemic.” So, why should students be the ones tasked with solving it in the public eye?