Once upon a time, in the year 2006, electronic cigarettes (e-cigarettes) found their way to the United States market.
Advertised as a way for smokers to get their nicotine fix anywhere they went – including airports, workplaces, movie theaters, and yes, even college campuses – “vaping” quickly found a niche market.
In recent years, e-cigarettes have come under fire as more and more high school-aged children are finding themselves addicted to the devices.
Initially, vaping was thought to be a safe and harmless alternative to traditional cigarettes as it replaced burning tobacco and paper with heated, moist, flavored air.
However, the chemicals in that air – nicotine, diacetyl, and a whole slew of volatile organic compounds – can be both addictive and dangerous.
The flavoring is also a concern, as many studies have shown it being the major contributing factor in drawing in younger people.
With underage use of e-cigarettes reaching epidemic like numbers – a recent government study found an 80 percent increase in the number of school-aged users – the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is seeking ways to curb or ban the use of flavoring in vaping devices.
On Nov. 16, FDA commissioner Scott Gottlieb pledged an effort to tighten rules governing the sale of most flavored versions of e-cigarettes.
“Any policy accommodation to advance the innovations that could present an alternative to smoking – particularly as it relates to e-cigarettes – cannot, and will not, come at the expense of addicting a generation of children to nicotine through these same delivery vehicles,” Gottlieb said in an FDA statement. “This simply will not happen. I will take whatever steps I must to prevent this.”
President Kojo Quartey said MCCC amended its tobacco policy to include e-cigarettes last year after problems with students vaping during class.
According to the students’ rights and responsibilities portion of the handbook, “smoking and the use of all tobacco products is prohibited at the college and is subject to all applicable laws, including Federal and State “clean air” acts.
This tobacco-free policy prohibits the use of all tobacco products and includes use of all devices intended to simulate smoking, including electronic cigarettes and other similar types of devices.”
Student Blaine Hubbert does not agree with such tight restrictions on e-cigarettes.
“Personally, I don’t see the problem,” Hubbert said. “Smoking actually hurts other people, whereas vaping has no second-hand effects.”
However, Hubbert, who does not believe students should be allowed to vape in the classroom or hallways, went on to say his opinions are always evolving.
“The moment they show the second-hand effects of vaping are harmful, I’ll vote to keep it off campus,” Hubbert said.
Student Dawn Witmer has seen first-hand the effects of traditional cigarette smoke.
“My husband’s lungs were completely white due to second-hand smoke,” Witmer said.
She believes e-cigarettes are a safer alternative.
“I don’t see the problem because it’s not smoke,” Witmer said. “It’s definitely a much better alternative.”
Witmer’s beliefs are shared by many proponents of e-cigarettes.
The debate as to the safety of e-cigarettes remains highly polarized, with one side saying it is a safer alternative to smoking – and can even help with smoking cessation, and the other side saying it targets young users and contributes to nicotine addiction.
Both sides back up their beliefs with studies.
The one area most people seem to agree, is e-cigarettes should not be allowed indoors.
According to a February 2018 study by the American Cancer Society, “indoor vaping (is) linked with heart disease and promotes tumors.”
The same study says nicotine vapor can affect fetuses as well as stunt brain development in children and adolescents, leading to both learning and anxiety disorders.
All evidence of vaping being a safer alternative to smoking is inconclusive, as are studies into it being a viable method of smoking cessation.
E-cigarettes, much like traditional cigarettes, are a big business for tobacco companies.
Filtering through the truth can be hard, and risks are often minimized to make a sale.