It’s been an open secret for some time that vaping is a serious problem at Wakefield High School and at high schools everywhere.

Vaping, if you don’t already know, is short for “vaporizing,” in which cartridges containing nicotine or even marijuana, are vaporized rather than smoked. This is what e-cigarettes do. There are various devices used for vaping, but the popular one among the kiddies today is something called the “Juul.”

If you don’t believe it, take a ride up Hemlock Road and pull into the parking lot directly across from Landrigan Field. This is the so called “Junior Lot” because this is where the 11th graders who drive to school park their cars. (I should say, mommy and daddy’s cars).

The first thing you’ll notice is the litter everywhere despite the availability of trash barrels throughout the lot. (This is the generation that cares very deeply about the environment.) In recent months, I’ve posted on Facebook a few photos of the mess, only to be told that coyotes and seagulls must be pulling the trash out of the barrels, because our own youth would never be so irresponsible.

Well, the coyotes and seagulls must be bigtime into vaping, because the second thing you’ll notice is how much of the litter in this parking lot is related to vaping. Town Council member Paul DiNocco noticed it and brought up the littering and vaping issues at last week’s Town Council meeting.

“There are a number of students who are very disrespectful of that lot,” DiNocco said, “trashing it on a regular basis.”

Just before last month’s Town Election, I posted photos on Facebook of the parking lot in question. I had driven by there one weekend afternoon and noticed that the mostly empty lot was littered with dozens of stolen lawn signs for candidates running for office in the local election. The signs were strewn about the parking lot, in the woods behind the lot and across the street in front of Landrigan Field. (Those rascally seagulls and coyotes again, I suppose.)

Paul DiNocco, who himself was a successful candidate in the recent election, saw my post on Facebook and took a ride up there to have a look for himself.

One of the things he noticed, he told the Town Council last week, was the “tiny cartridges all over the ground up there.” These “tiny cartridges” are called “pods” and they are used in Juuls for vaping.

“There is a big vaping issue in this town,” DiNocco told the Town Council, “and a lot of it is going on up there (at the Junior Lot at WHS).”

It’s not just in the parking lot. It’s in school too.

Call me old-fashioned, but I remember the days when the only way to get your nicotine fix during the school day was to duck into the boys’ lavatory for a quick butt between classes. The problem was, it smelled. If a teacher walked in and caught a whiff, it could mean major detention hours for the smoker. (Do they still have detention?)

Now, thanks to the miracle of modern technology, students don’t need to worry about the tell-tale odor of smoke in the school bathrooms. The vapor exhaled from vaping is virtually odorless. And there’s even a way to minimize the visible vapor plume. It’s called “zeroing out,” whereby you hold the inhaled vapor in your lungs long enough that there is nothing visible when you finally exhale.

Zeroing out means today’s students don’t need to sneak off to the nearest gender-neutral bathroom. They can take a surreptitious puff from a Juul right in the classroom or hallway and just zero out the vapor.

Schools are trying to address the issue, but as you can see, it’s a real problem when you can’t even tell it’s going on.

Vaping has been promoted as a “safer” alternative to smoking cigarettes. But kids see the word “safer” and interpret it to mean “safe.”

It’s the same thing that happened with marijuana in the 1960s and 1970s. All we needed to hear was that weed was less harmful than heroin and other hard drugs. Our adolescent brains translated “less harmful” to mean “harmless” and a generation of potheads was born, who then passed the habit along to succeeding generations. Now that the baby boomers are running things, we have legalized marijuana. What a proud legacy to leave behind.

We’ve forged a society where the worst sin is to pass judgment or to “forbid” anything. So, the destructive behavior continues.

Between rampant vaping and legalized weed, we are creating the next generation of nicotine addicts, potheads and God knows what else. Who knew it would be this easy to undo 50 years-worth of anti-nicotine/anti-drug education?

Maybe we can at least do something about the litter.