Last week on Wednesday, Sept. 12, the Food and Drug Administration held a news conference to state that the rise in teenage e-cigarette use has become an epidemic and needs to be stopped.
E-cigarettes were intended to help wean adult smokers from using traditional cigarettes, but they have now become a trend for underage teenagers to take part in.
“I think [FDA] is absolutely accurate,” Assistant Director for health promotion and marketing Erica Krager-Gatzow says, “I think especially because students or teens don’t think that vaping is a big deal. And it’s seen as not as bad as smoking and maybe in some ways it’s not, but there is still a lot of question marks about the health impacts of it.”
According to the 2017 College Student Health Survey Report, which surveyed 558 students at SCSU, 6.3% of students reported using an e-cigarette in the last 30 days. The CSHSR also states that in the past year approximately one-tenth or 9.7% of all full-time college students have used an e-cigarette.
“Over any of the other traditionally FDA approved ways to reduce or quit smoking, [vaping has] shown to be just as good, it wasn’t better,” Krager-Gatzow says, “Research shows that people that are using e-cigarettes consistently are using other forms of tobacco. So it’s often seen as a more healthy alternative, but [it can be] either a gateway or being used in tangent with others.”
The FDA plans on cracking down on vape products, such as sales to teenagers and limiting the sales of certain flavored products. They are considering taking e-cigarettes off the market if producers do not take steps to stop underage teenagers from purchasing their products.
SCSU student Molly Callen says, “You can tell with all the flavors and stuff, and like the JUUL because you can fit it in your pocket, it is easy to conceal. Some of their advertising is aimed towards teens because why would you not, teens will spend their money on anything, it’s smart.”
A concern about vaping is there is not extensive long-term research on how it affects the body. No form of vaping is FDA approved and it is not widely known what chemicals vaping juice consists of. Amounts of nicotine are another factor with one JUUL pod being equal to one pack of cigarettes, teens might not be aware they are getting addicted.
“Often times because they are inhaling something very very hot, people can get sores in their mouth,” Krager-Gatzow said. “Some of the chemicals in that vaping solution reduce your body’s ability to close up those sores. Then there is all of this other concern about putting chemicals in your body that you don’t know what it is and what the long-term impacts could be.”
Another reason for the concern over teenage vaping is how it affects their learning. Teens can develop nicotine cravings which can make it difficult to focus on school and on homework. Krager-Gatzow says that research shows people who smoke regularly have lower GPA’s than those who drink at risky levels.
“They postulate that [lower GPA] is because it breaks up your study time, because sometimes maybe you vape and then you go back to studying,” Krager-Gatzow said. “Then those cravings start again and you are thinking about [vaping] and you are distracted.”
One SCSU student who wishes to remain anonymous has been vaping since their freshman year of high school. They began vaping because most of the friends had also started to vape. Spending anywhere from 50 to 100 dollars each month on vaping supplies, they are aware of the health risks they can take but choose not to quit since they have been vaping for many years.
“There really isn’t [any benefit to vaping], I mean it can stop adults from smoking cigarettes but there is no positive of a teenager doing it,” anonymous said.
Krager-Gatzow suggests that teenager vaping has become a trend because of the rise of it in social media. Seeing others do tricks with smoke and vaping is easy to conceal, not leaving bad smelling breath after using or smell lingering in clothing.
“Just like anything else, like why are teens so attracted to crocs?” Callen says, “I don’t know. I feel like social media has a huge role because it kind of builds it up like cool people vape, like ‘yeah what I blow this smoke in the air.’ I feel like people make it seem cool.”
Callen, a freshman, chooses not to vape regularly because of the unknown health risks it possesses. She would not consider vaping an epidemic among teenagers but does acknowledge the popularity of it.
The cost of vaping also affects Callen’s decision, not to vape. Callen says “I know right now people aren’t saying it’s horrible for you but I feel like the same thing kind of happened with cigarettes. I just don’t really have a desire to do it because it’s kind of pointless to me, blowing smoke in the air. I’m not opposed, I have done it before, it’s just expensive and probably not good for you.”
Vaping restrictions are the same as the SCSU’s tobacco policy, such as not allowing students to smoke/vape in residential halls, on green spaces, or any building on campus.