A viral craze is sweeping across high school and college campuses across the United States. Unlike the harmless middle school trends of yesteryear, like Webkinz and Silly Bandz, this “epidemic” originates from basic lifestyle choices. However, like alcoholism and drug abuse, vaping is a toxic underground trend that has detrimental effects.
The vaping trend has taken campuses by storm and is the cause of serious health risks. According to the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse (NCASA), “vaping is the act of inhaling and exhaling the aerosol, often referred to as vapor, which is produced by an e-cigarette or similar device.” The devices themselves can resemble a flash drive or pen, making it easier to hide on school campuses. Part of the appeal among teenagers is the belief that “e-cigarettes are less harmful than other tobacco products” as well as the ability for these devices to use a variety of flavors, from mango to mint (SurgeonGeneral.gov).
Sophomore Mark Baisier said, “From what I know, I think vaping has become so popular because nicotine gives people the same effect as cigarettes or dip. It has become more popular due to the fact that it does not require the tobacco flavor that many find unappealing. It is also very easy for someone to conceal a vape with them because they can be so small and don’t leave a smell.”
However, the vapor itself is what raises a red flag on health concerns. While vaping might seem like a nontoxic alternative to smoking cigarettes, there remain hidden dangers. “The e-liquid in vaporizer products usually contains a propylene glycol or vegetable glycerin-based liquid with nicotine, flavoring and other chemicals and metals, but not tobacco. Some people use these devices to vape THC, the chemical responsible for most of marijuana’s mind-altering effects, or even synthetic drugs like flakka, instead of nicotine,” according to NCASA.
Many of these chemicals have been linked to cancer, as well as respiratory and heart disease. Because e-cigarettes were introduced on the market nearly a decade ago and have only recently caught national attention, many of the health effects of vaping have not yet been analyzed.
As a result, parents and school administrators are largely unaware of this fad and have yet to establish firm rules on the restriction of these substances. Wesleyan School, however, has included a section about vaping in its handbook; it reads, “The possession, use or distribution of tobacco or any nicotine products of any form on campus or at off-campus school functions are prohibited. Examples include, but are not limited to, chewing tobacco, cigarettes, e-cigarettes and vaping devices.” This policy was put in place to protect students from harmful substances and maintain the integrity of the drug-free Wesleyan community.
Assistant Dean of Students Mary Stephenson said, “Nicotine, which is a part of each of these products, is an addictive, habit-forming substance that is particularly harmful to the adolescent brain. Because the adolescent brain is not fully developed, it is especially vulnerable to the harmful effects of nicotine. I’m not a scientist, but there are a number of studies that show the damaging effects nicotine has on the developing function and capacity of the adolescent brain. As such, we want to clearly discourage the use of such products, which is why they are not allowed to be used by anyone on our campus (adults or students). We want to make a clear stand in word and by example that tobacco products are not part of a healthy lifestyle and encourage our students to live tobacco free.”
“Many vape devices have the capability to vaporize substances other than nicotine, such as opiates, variants of marijuana, and other illegal drugs, not to mention legal products that are not meant for human consumption or inhaling. In order to be consistent with our drug and alcohol policy, we feel it is imperative to not just be a tobacco-free campus, but also a vape-free campus. These devices have no place on our campus,” said Stephenson.
Despite the negative effects of vaping, arguments have been made in favor of the new fad. Sophomore respondent, who requested anonymity said, “Vaping can have positive effects on the community as a whole, because I personally know adults who have stopped smoking through vaping. However, since vaping has only been around for a short period of time, we have no idea whether it is a healthier alternative or not. I personally believe that it is a healthier alternative and will have positive benefits down the road on smokers and ‘would have been’ smokers, but at the end of the day…only time will tell.”
Wesleyan parent Suzanne Baisier said, “Although I believe that the choice to vape or not to vape should be made by the student and his/her parents, I appreciate the ‘vape free’ school that we are a part of, because I feel that it puts less ‘peer pressure’ on my kids to vape. If the student body were allowed to do so on campus, it is my belief that kids who otherwise would not be likely to vape, might give it a try. The fewer opportunities for negative peer pressure on campus, the better off our student body will be as a whole.”