Students should learn the mounting health risks: Stop smoking vapes

For college students, vaping is a staple of social life.

Walking nearly anywhere throughout campus, you might see students vaping, whether it is at a party, on the sidewalk or outside of the classroom. Nationwide, 14 percent of college students had vaped in the past 30 days, and 29 percent of students have tried vaping items like Juuls at some point in college, believing there were limited health risks. But recent studies show that these ubiquitous modern-day smoking products are not as safe as people think.

The Center for Disease Control released a study Friday revealing that individuals suffered from life-threatening respiratory illnesses tied to vaping. In light of the published study, government health officials are warning people to stay away from any form of vaping – even the use of marijuana-based or nicotine-free products. The evidence is there – students should stop vaping to avoid risking their health and well-being.

Jeanne Franchesca Dela Cruz | Cartoonist

Although analyzing the health effects of vaping is in the early stages, the medical community has evidence-based suspicions on how vaping can make people sick. The aerosol produced by vapes contains harmful chemicals that, once inhaled, lodge themselves into an individual’s lungs and potentially reduce their respiratory function. These jarring health pitfalls, both short-term and long-term, can be avoided by students if they simply do not vape.

This June, hospitals across the country began admitting patients with “mysterious” respiratory illnesses. Of the more than 400 patients, many were college-aged and reported chest pain, difficulty breathing, nausea and vomiting. Some patients’ conditions were so dire they needed to be put on ventilators to be kept alive. Doctors did not take long to connect the dots: All of the patients said they vaped heavily.

Illinois health officials announced late last month that one person died from a sickness linked to vaping. A 30-year-old woman who vaped heavily experienced respiratory illness when she was hospitalized. Since then, three more people have lost their lives for reasons doctors think are tied to vaping. If students do not become conscious of the health risks of vaping, they could be the reason those numbers rise.

Only recently has the medical community caught on to the drawbacks of vaping. There is little to no research on the long-term effects of vaping, and it is not unlikely that more dangers will present themselves in time. But the CDC’s newly released information should be enough to convince students not to vape. Students shouldn’t wait for long-term studies to be released to know vaping is unhealthy.

But it might not be so easy for students to quit vaping – electronic cigarettes have contributed to a massive increase in nicotine addiction. Some students might experience an addiction, and hearing about the health risks will not help them overcome it. That being said, the University has resources, like the Quit For Life Program, in place to help students quit nicotine addictions.

Several of the University’s peer schools have similar programs in place to help students quit smoking, including Boston, Georgetown and New York universities. Other schools have campuswide bans on smoking, which include e-cigarettes. GW’s smoking ban extends to e-cigarettes, but it is often difficult to enforce the rule on GW’s urban campus.

Students might think they cannot catch harmful side effects from vaping after class or during a party, but the evidence is there. Nicotine in vapes can stunt brain development in young people, and inhaling the substance has been linked to heart disease, reproductive problems and strokes. Students who were led to believe that vaping is the safe way to smoke might not have realized its risks.

Students should not wait any longer to stop vaping. Students who are addicted have resources to turn to at school, and they should use those resources before they suffer from the side effects of the nearly 200 people who were hospitalized. Students who might consider vaping should weigh the risks of lung disease, hospitalization and death against the prospect of a head rush from a quick hit. For the sake of their own futures, students should not vape.

Andrew Sugrue, a sophomore majoring in political science, is a columnist.

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