According to the CDC (Centers for Diseases Control), America has seen a large decline in cigarette smokers but that does not mean they have replaced their nicotine addiction. They are merely substituting them with vape pens. Reuters has reported that there are close to 11 million vapers in America, following which the National Institute on Drug Abuse released survey results saying that 37.3% of high school students had vaped in the last 12 months. Rather than getting their nicotine in a cigarette, students are vaping their way to get their nicotine fix.
Visit any campus – you’ll most likely be greeted with clouds of vape smoke at every corner. From dorm rooms to the cafeteria and on the steps of classroom buildings, the scent of vaporizers and e-cigarettes, though not as offensive as cigarette smoke, is ever-present. Students have even taken to smoking in classrooms, much to the displeasure of lecturers and students that do not share the habit. Universities are rushing to combat this epidemic and almost 2,000 universities in the states have imposed a ban on smoking devices.
This rise of vaping on campus is most like perpetuated by the belief that vaping is normal behavior. According to one survey, only 12.9% smoked an e-cigarette on campus but that number was inflated to 79.9% when the opposite survey was presented and students were asked how many of their peers did they think used a vape. This is troubling as the truth is being swept under the rug and students might feel differently about using a vape if they knew just how unpopular it is compared to how popular they think vaping is.
However, regardless of the numbers, vaping has become a common occurrence in bathroom stalls and libraries. A student paper reported that during finals week, the library looked like a steam room with all the vapor that was present, encouraging the university to install a no-vaping notice.
The lack of having a lingering or pungent smell is one of the attractions of a vaping device. Students can smoke as much as they want and believe that they can get away with smoking anywhere. It is probably why vaping has overtaken cigarette smoking as cigarettes leave a very unpleasant odor on the smoker, has a higher probability of developing bad breath, and is not welcomed outside of designated smoking areas.
Universities are taking note of the fact that vaping has become rather prevalent on their campuses and have updated their non-smoking signage to include all forms of smoking devices, effectively banning all tobacco products. Some go as far as to have their security guards patrol for rule breakers. Others, such as the University of Michigan, offer support to their students and faculty who want to quit smoking or vaping, completely free of charge.
One factor hampering the effectivity of banning e-smoking is the fact that many vapes and electronic cigarettes taste harmless. With flavors ranging from strawberry to mint, it is hard to associate it with any dangers it might pose to health and there are quite a few concerns: lung cancer remains at the top of the list, with harmful compounds found in both the vapour and fluid of vapourizers. It can also cause lung disease and irreversible lung damage. According to the American Lung Association, “e-cigarettes both contain and emit a number of potentially toxic substances”.
It is unfortunate that vaping has not yet been met with the full force of the same kind of disapproval that cigarette smoking is as vaping has been said to be more addictive than cigarettes. Perhaps due to its very nature – you can take a puff anytime, anywhere without having to finish one entire stick. With cigarettes, you can easily see how much you have been smoking and might pull back when you perceive it to be more than what you are comfortable with. But with the Juul or vape pen, it is hard to quantify a puff here and a puff there. Close inspection of Juul’s website reveals that one Juul pod contains “20 cigarettes worth of nicotine”.
With tar and carbon monoxide out of the way, smokers might feel that vaping is a much healthier alternative. However, seldom do they pause to think about the main ingredient in tobacco products and the effects it might have on one’s health. Nicotine is a carcinogenic substance which means that it has the potential to cause cancer. Furthermore, it can impact one’s immune system and increase the risk for cardiovascular, respiratory, gastrointestinal disorders. Nicotine is not without ill-effects and furthermore, it is highly addictive and can cause withdrawal symptoms that are not pleasant to live with and can last up to three months.
What universities have to begin is to educate their students regarding the side effects of vaping. More research should also go into proving that vaping is damaging to health as many students choose to believe that vaping is “innocent until proven guilty” and insists that there is not enough data to determine how harmful vape and e-cigarettes truly is.