Democratic officials and anti-vaping advocates are sounding the alarm about the supposed growing “epidemic” of electronic cigarettes on college campuses.
New York Sen. Chuck Schumer slammed e-cigarettes in a press release last month, calling the devices “dangerous” while imploring regulators to crack down on “e-cigs and their mystery chemicals before more New York kids get hooked.” Schumer’s alarmism ignores recent studies showing that the devices are helping smokers quit at a record pace. Officials and activists in New York are particularly disturbed by the use of a small and discreet e-cigarette product called the Juul, and the popularity of these devices on college campuses, reports USA Today.
A deputy editor for Washington Square News, the student paper at New York University (NYU) wrote Oct. 27 about concern over the rising prevalence of the Juul on campus. The Daily Illini, the University of Illinois’s student paper, declared Oct. 17 that Juul usage is a “new epidemic” that is “sweeping across campus.”
Such hysterical coverage of a discreet vaping product ignores the growing body of medical research showing the devices greatly reduce harm from smoking. A study released Oct. 2 by the Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center at Georgetown University Medical Center shows that if vaping were to largely replace smoking, roughly 6.6. million smokers would avoid premature death and collectively add 86.7 million extra years to their lives.
Critics say fear over vapor products on college campuses also misses the larger point about e-cigarettes, namely that they are a harm reduction tool helping millions of American smokers quit combustible tobacco. Roughly 2.62 million former smokers were using a vape in 2016.
Penn State University is currently mulling the idea of a smoke-free campus, which would include banning e-cigarettes. The idea is proving controversial on campus, where Juul is a popular product among students.
“If you take a hit of a vape or a Juul, especially a Juul, [the smoke] is going to disperse within a matter of seconds,” Ron Feinberg, a sophomore at Penn State who sometimes vapes, recently told the Daily Collegian. “So these people that are getting offended and putting complaints into the school [when people are vaping respectfully], I feel like it’s kind of unnecessary.”
The American College Health Association’s fall 2016 survey showed that the percentage of college students smoking daily or every other day dropped below 5 percent in 2016, while the vaping population grew. Cigarette smoking is still far more prevalent on campuses than vaping; however, the stats show college students are becoming more open to alternative technologies that reduce harm to themselves.
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