There have been six confirmed deaths and over 400 possible cases of lung illnesses in the United States linked to the use of e-cigarettes and vaping devices. The recent deaths have prompted the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and state health departments to open investigations into the dangers of e-cigarettes.
When first introduced, vaping was branded as an alternative to smoking regular cigarettes. Some products were invented to cut the use of burning tobacco; others, like Juul, were invented with the hopes of making a “safe” cigarette, according to its creators.
Since their introduction, though, vapes attracted a very different flock of consumers: teens. With relatively easy accessibility, it wasn’t hard for teens to get their hands on vaping devices. The varying styles and flavors offered a sense of personalization and style to the vapes and the word on the street was that they were healthier than cigarettes but offered the same buzz.
“I think around last year is when it broke out and everyone started carrying their vape on them and that’s when I decided to get one,” Tierney White, student, said.
Tierney White began vaping when she was seventeen years old. However, because of the recent news she and her friends have reduced the amount they vape or have stopped completely.
“Since the studies have broken out about how it’s really bad, a lot of people that used to do it stopped because they’re afraid they’re going to get sick or die,” said Tierney White. “I quit about a month ago, I was never super into it, but I used to ask my friends if I could hit their Juul. I got to a point where I would ask so often, [I figured] I should just get my own…I never really used it except when I was driving places, but then it hit me that I do it every time I drive, and it isn’t good for me.”
However, the recent information seemingly has no effect on another student who continues to vape even after being told not to. Student Addisyn White first heard about vaping her freshman year of high school. She was warned about the consequences, yet still uses a vape regularly.
“I am addicted to [vaping],” Addisyn White said. “I really enjoy the flavor. I think the main thing is I love the feeling of [inhaling the smoke] and it going in my lungs, and I think I’m kind of addicted to that action. So, it’s kind of hard for me to stop because it’s not that I’m missing the nicotine, but I miss the act of doing it.”
Parents of teen victims have shifted the blame onto vaping companies. The most common argument that is used is that the flavor of the vape is what gets kids and teens to try it. With flavors that range from mango all the way to cotton candy, it isn’t too farfetched of an argument. For Addisyn White that is exactly what happened.
“The flavor was what got me into vaping because I enjoyed [the taste]. However, the high nicotine amounts were what got me hooked, because I got addicted much faster than I would have if I was smoking cigarettes,” said Addisyn White. “When I first started vaping, I was getting a buzz from it and I liked that feeling. I’m trying to stop vaping because it is very expensive, and I’ve realized a shift in my sleeping. I have a harder time falling asleep without vaping. I can notice the difference in my endurance throughout the day.”
While a correlation between vape usage and lung illness continue to develop across the nation, the CDC has yet to find a direct cause linking the two. Although the dangers surrounding vape are only just coming to the surface, e-cigarettes have been banned from the college since 2014. That year, the anti-smoking policies were updated to include a vaping ban as well as the original ban on traditional cigarettes. With signs placed across all over campus, the college hopes to deter students from using any smoking devices where they shouldn’t.
“If you do want to smoke on campus, we have [multiple smoking areas] near the Industrial Training Center building,” said Robles. “You can smoke inside of your car but not outside. [The point is] just trying to contain what people are emitting from their body if they’re smoking or using a tobacco product.”
The college enforces its policy by fining students caught smoking in non-smoking areas. For a first offense, the price if $10; the price is raised to $20 for any further offenses. Although some students continue to vape, whether on or off campus, there are others who dislike the way vaping has infiltrated its way into society. Student Keyon Watson purchased a vape and used it regularly until he realized what it was doing to his health.
“Vaping is just like cigarettes,” Watson said. “They only made vapes to try to lower the smoking rate, but all it did was make people more addicted to [nicotine.] I knew there were going to be consequences with people who vape like there were with cigarettes. A lot people who are doing it don’t know [the full effects], and especially with the recent news they always say ‘oh you’re over exaggerating’ but no there are going to be consequences that you haven’t seen yet. When you think about it [vaping is] fairly new. People are just getting into it, but as time goes on more people are going to see the consequences.”
Story by Alieu Jagne