We live in the Hoosier Heartland of America. We're country music, apple pie and Friday night lights. "ish" But any parent that believes their child is immune to the challenges of sex, drugs and alcohol is living a lie.
Our girl has no prior troubles other than not having the exact shoes to wear with an outfit on any given day or the angst that comes from needing to clean your room before you can go out with your friends. She's a good girl, loves her mama... all that jazz.
And she messed up.
It brings back the memories of things that I did as a teenager that were mess ups. I comfort myself with that. I'm now a law abiding citizen paying a mortgage with a healthy 401K. We should and do survive our teenage mistakes.
I'm also the parent that believes in consequences so I want to handle this well so she learns from it and doesn't believe that life is easy and she shouldn't be concerned.
The text continues. She's in the principals office. She was vaping in the bathroom. There were others involved. Doesn't matter.
I'm only concerned with my daughter and how we'll handle this. She owns it completely with the principal. Tells the truth.
She's a mess. Tells me she messed up big time and she feels like failure. Tells me that she knows that her dad and I have trusted her and she's blown it by breaking our trust. She feels like a bad daughter and a failure. She's unglued.
On one hand I celebrate her response and in the other hand I'm holding my broken heart. My heart breaks that she's so miserable. I listen. I tell her to text her dad and we'll discuss it tonight.
The principal calls me an hour later. Smoking on school grounds gets you a 3 day suspension. It could have been more but our daughter was honest and handled it well so she gets the minimum 3 days. We need to talk to the school police officer. There will be a court date.
I've gone from picking out a dress to the homecoming dance and the angst of matching jewelry to court dates and suspension. Parenting is not for the faint of heart.
I tell our daughter she will go to the court date, she will handle all of the required consequences. There will be no "easy out". I want her to feel the entirety of this offense to scare her away from any future troubles.
I sit down with the school officer. He tells me it has been the worst year in his history as a school officer. Lovely. Misery loves company isn't working so well for me.
He gives me a brochure on the kind of vape that my daughter was using. This is the real reason for this post. There are things you need to know.
He hands me a paper written by the county health department specifically about this vape product. It's become a big deal that is slipping under the radar of most parents.
This vape is called JUUL. Yes, pronounced "jewel". It's the size of an ink pen and looks like a flash drive for your computer. Are you starting to see who the target market is for this device?
You need to be 21 to purchase a JUUL which doesn't prevent my 16 year old from having one. Rumor has it that a parent bought this for their child but I opt not to investigate that rumor because my daughter still chose to stick it in her mouth and suck on it so that's where I choose to focus. She had a choice to say no and didn't.
The marketing promise of JUUL: More of a "nicotine kick" than a traditional cigarette. This produces an instant high. And the Juulpods that contain the nicotine salts and e-juice come in Cool Mint, Fruit Medley, Creme Brule and Virginia Tobacco.
So there you have it. The cool girls cigarette in all the right flavors.
Because it's a "cigarette alternative" in their mind and in their conversations it's not gross smoking like the old people do.
My daughter comes home and I greet her with the paper about JUUL and the court citation I picked up from the officer. She already looks pale and miserable. This has been a rough few days. The stress shows on her face. She tears up. Alligator tears roll down her face.
I calmly say,
"This is a big deal. I'm glad you recognize that. You have made a choice that has consequences to your health and your reputation.
And that's not the part that should scare you the most."
I explain to her that not only is she in a fragile state of critical decision making at a time that is difficult enough for a 16 year old, she is also under attack.
"Did you know that the smoking rates have been on the decline for years. They are the lowest they've been since cigarettes were introduced. This means the stop smoking messages are working.
And smoking is a business. The tobacco industry is a business. They are losing sales.
Somewhere a group of most likely men got together in a board room to formulate a strategy to increase their sales and save their business.
I am a consultant, I help businesses create these types of strategies. I picture the conversation went something like this....
Okay boys we've got to get the sales back up. We're in trouble. We need a target market. We need a customer for life. The younger we can get someone using a tobacco product the longer we've got their money.
And there is where the JUUL idea was born. The teenage girl cigarette."
I explain that it looks cool and tastes good. Most people don't even think that it's actually nicotine. Some parents told me not to worry about it because it was just flavored water. I assured her that was not the case.
Then we talk about the alcohol industry also targeting her demographic. Fruity drinks that go down smooth.
This is no longer my generation where you had to choke down sloe gin or Boone's Farm and hack a disgusting hack after your first Marlboro Light. These industries are now targeting them for their cool factor and their babysitting money. It looks good and it tastes good. And it's working.
I go on to encourage that if she really wanted to make this situation right, she'd not only change her own behavior but she'd not allow herself to fall prey to these targeted attacks and she'd stand loud and proud to educate her sisters not to get in on this scheme.
Right not she's facing the normal small town backlash of bullying in the hallways because she was suspended. Parents telling other parents not to let their daughters hang with mine. Choices have consequences, no one wants to believe their kid might be on the suspension list. So we will survive this and be stronger for it.
For the rest of you. Read up. Vape is not flavored water. And that USB drive on your kids dresser might be a cigarette.
Click here for my follow up video response.