By Leanne Tan, Student Writer
Students received a mass email recently reminding them that the use of any e-cigarettes, like all tobacco products, is not in alignment with the community covenant and is thus prohibited on campus.
Was this just a random reminder, or spurred on by a trend?
Since the introduction of electronic cigarettes a couple of years ago, the popularity of vaping among youth has surged dramatically. A study by the University of Michigan found that vaping on college campuses has doubled between 2017 and 2018. Messiah is no exception to this growth spurt.
“The department of safety has had a couple of juuls that they found in parking lots,” Associate Dean of Students Doug Wood said. “A couple of years ago, that wasn’t necessarily the case.”
Senior nutrition and dietetics major Priscilla Abel believes the increase is due to the lack of knowledge about the dangers of vaping.
“People have the misconception that vaping is better than smoking when in reality it’s just as bad,” she said.
Vaping is widely perceived to help curb smoking addiction. However, the American Heart Association and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) claim otherwise. Most e-cigarettes contain harmful and potentially harmful substances such as nicotine, heavy metals, cancer-causing chemicals and ultrafine particles that can get trapped in the lungs.
“[Vaping] is as addictive, if not more, [as smoking],” Wood said. “In some cartridges, it’s twice the nicotine you’d get in actual cigarettes. I think the most alarming thing about the use of e-cigarettes is that it has the same potential negative health effects, in terms of high blood pressure, heart disease and cancers, as traditional cigarettes.”
According to the CDC, over 2,000 cases of e-cigarette associated lung injury have been reported across 49 U.S. states, the District of Columbia and one U.S. territory. At least 39 people have died from illnesses caused by vaping. Despite this, the use of e-cigarettes on college campuses shows no signs of slowing down.
Wood believes that college students who vape typically arrive in college with already established patterns of using e-cigarettes, a majority of them having been introduced to it in high school.
“You have something that tastes better, that doesn’t smell or have the scent of traditional cigarettes, and you have something that’s way more potent that folks can access much more easily,” Engle Center counselor Marcelle Giovannetti said. “It’s concealable much more easily, especially for folks that are underage when they first start.”
Giovannetti, who has a background in drug and alcohol counseling, explained that the use of e-cigarettes could potentially have a larger negative effect on young adults, as a person’s prefrontal cortex, the portion of the brain that is responsible for decision making and impulse control, does not fully mature until age 25.
“Because that part of your brain isn’t fully developed yet, if you start using … any substance, in particular, a very addictive one like nicotine, in high school, it increases your likelihood of becoming dependent on something,” she said.
Rather than resorting to e-cigarettes as an avenue for smoking cessation, both Giovannetti and Wood suggest students to look into other options that may work more effectively, such as individual counseling at the Engle Center.
“Oftentimes, particularly at Christian colleges, there’s a lot of guilt and shame and stigma that I think will prevent someone from coming in for help, so I would want students to know that there is help and support,” Giovannetti said. “If a student comes forward and says, ‘hey, I need help with this. I really wanna quit,’ they’re not going to be sanctioned and that information is not going to be shared.”
Giovannetti added that being a Christian does not automatically provide anyone immunity from addiction.
“A lot of people think Christian colleges are so different than any other university or college. But when it comes to substance use, it’s an equal opportunity offender thing,” she said. “You could take any person and increase dose and frequency for an addictive product and make them become addicted to it.”
In addition to counseling at the Engle Center, other ways to quit smoking/vaping include, but are not limited to, talking to medical providers about medications that might be useful, finding a support group and using smoking cessation apps.
“Having support in your quitting process is very important and for each person what that support is going to look like is very different,” Giovannetti said. “There are many ways to go about quitting and a person has to decide what’s best for them.”
For more information, visit https://www.messiah.edu/info/20894/engle_center.