You are walking into Starr and all of the sudden you are engulfed in a thick fog that smells like your grandma’s pecan pie. No, I am not describing a dream; this is a nearly daily occurrence of college students. The fog is vapor, and you are walking behind a guy or gal who is commonly known as a “vaper.”
Vaping seems to have happened overnight. When I was a freshman I remember knowing just one guy who vaped; now I have many friends who blow clouds and I see it all over campus. Research published just this month says 6.7 percent of adults have tried vaping and 12 percent of high schoolers have hit the rig. I’m told those blocks with a mouthpiece are called “rigs.”
Many people are concerned about this trend. These vapers are consuming nicotine, the active ingredient in other tobacco products like cigarettes. Some of these concerns are legitimate, but there is little conclusive research available and that can be almost as scary as having data that suggests negative effects. But is vaping dangerous? The only totally truthful answer is that we don’t really know yet, but it seems less harmful than cigarettes.
What we do know is that vaping is considerably less expensive than smoking. Some studies suggest that switching to an e-cig can cut your annual tobacco costs in half. This is a very strong argument for switching to vapor considering that if you smoke a pack and a half a day, you are spending over $3,500 a year.
And it’s not just money that vaping is saving, it may be lives, too. The vapor being inhaled does not contain the tar that cigarettes do and secondhand smoke is almost non-existent with e-cigs.
“So far, evidence suggests that e-cigarettes may be safer than regular cigarettes. The biggest danger from tobacco is the smoke, and e-cigarettes don’t burn. Tests show the levels of dangerous chemicals they give off are a fraction of what you’d get from a real cigarette.” This was written in a peer-reviewed piece by R. Morgan Griffin published through WebMD.
While higher taxes and stricter regulations on where you can smoke have been projected to decrease the amount of smokers, there is evidence that a less harmful substitute can lead to less smoking and less smoking-related deaths. And if you are like me and think a “sin tax” is immoral and don’t think the government should be in the business of telling us where we can smoke but still hope for a more healthy country, the popularity of a safer alternative to cigarettes should excite you.
In some European countries the popularity of a smokeless tobacco called “snus” was correlated with the overall decrease in tobacco use. Derek Yach of Spectator Health writes, “In Norway, by contrast, snus consumption by adults rose from four percent in 1985 to 28 percent in 2012—and overall tobacco use fell by 20 percent.” He goes on to say that after bans on snus were implemented, the decrease in tobacco use slowed the decline in tobacco use.
This tells me that safer alternatives to cigarettes can be influential in the overall decrease of smoking. I think that is what we all want—a healthier society. Bans on vaping are counterproductive to this goal. Some big cities like Los Angeles have implemented sweeping bans on e-cigs everywhere that cigarettes are banned, including public parks.
It’s true that vaping doesn’t really look cool. We often associate vaping with “club kids” or guys with SWAG written on their shirts. But vaping can save lives and there is nothing cooler than being alive. Over-regulation and bans on e-cigs are a perfect example of governments trying to help, but really hurting.