Two weeks ago, the Trump administration announced plans to ban the sale of flavored e-cigarette products within the U.S. The announcement followed the spread of vaping-related illnesses.
Flavored e-cigarettes are popular among teenagers and college-age students. Hopkins students reflected on how these reports of recent illnesses have impacted their vaping habits.
Junior Noah Johnson spoke to The News-Letter about her experience with vaping. Johnson began vaping in order to quit smoking.
“If I were to smoke a cigarette after vaping, it was kind of gross,” she said.
Johnson has completely stopped smoking any form of nicotine because of the recent medical scare related to vaping.
“I got freaked out that all the people were dying,“ Johnson said. “I’d rather not take the risk of getting a mysterious lung disease.”
Jacki Stone, the director of student well-being at the Center for Health Education and Wellness (CHEW), told The News-Letter in an email that vaping on campus was nowhere near as widespread as students believe, according to a 2018 survey.
“In the spring of 2018, 83% of JHU students who took the survey had never used an e-cigarette. Of those who have used e-cigarettes, just over 9% of survey respondents used in the past 30 days. 554 students answered this question,“ Stone wrote. “When survey respondents were asked how often they think the typical student at JHU used e-cigarettes within the last 30 days, 67.5% of students reported believing that students used in the last 30 days.”
E-cigarettes were seen as a better option for people addicted to cigarettes or other tobacco products as they do not involve the combustion of toxic particulate matter, which is known to cause lung cancer. Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar explained at a joint press conference with Trump on Sept. 11 why the administration banned the sale of cigarette products within the U.S.
“An entire generation of children risk becoming addicted to nicotine because of the attractiveness, appeal-ability and availability of these vaping products,” Azar said. “With the president’s support, the Food and Drug Administration intends to... require that all flavors, other than tobacco flavor, be removed from the market.”
The Trump administration’s actions are not unprecedented. Michigan became the first state to ban the sale of flavored e-cigarettes, with a ban that will go into effect on Oct. 2. Juul Labs had halted its wholesale distribution of fruit-flavored pods to stores nationally late last year, leaving only mint, menthol and tobacco flavors in most retail settings.
Former Chief Executive Officer of Juul Labs Kevin Burns, who stepped down on Wednesday, told CNBC that Juul’s youth appeal was unintentional and called for further studies on the long-term effects of using e-cigarettes.
“It’s not intended for [children]. I hope there was nothing that we did that made it appealing to them,” Burns said. “We have not done the long-term, longitudinal, clinical testing that we need to do.”
A number of Hopkins students spoke to The News-Letter about their opinions on the flavor ban.
Sophomore David Wang explained that his friends’ use of e-cigarettes had encouraged him to start vaping.
“I vape mainly to relieve stress, also because it is a fun thing to do,” Wang said. “I got into vaping because a lot of my friends did. I do consider myself addicted.”
When asked about the potential effects of the ban, Wang expressed interest in the outcome, saying that he would consider quitting vaping and switching to tobacco products like cigarettes.
Freshman Hokin Deng told The News-Letter that vaping has had an impact on his academic career at Hopkins. While Deng said that he now regrets his decision to begin vaping, he is no longer able to take tests at Hopkins without doing so.
“I get anxious before every test, so I have to vape,” Deng said.
A possible downside to the flavor ban is the potential it has to encourage e-cigarette users to transition into consuming tobacco products.
“If they ban all the e-cigarettes, I’ll have no choice but to smoke cigarettes,” Deng said.
Though Stone only began working at Hopkins in August, she wrote that she is partnering with Hopkins Kicks Butts, a student-run anti-smoking organization, to discourage students from using nicotine products.
“I am working with the leaders of the Hopkins Kicks Butts group on campus who are invested in doing campus policy work to address smoking and vaping,” she wrote. “The research suggests that e-cigarettes are particularly harmful for children and young people so it is unlikely that any studies will suggest them as a cessation technique.”
Stone explained why she believes e-cigarette products are so attractive to young adults.
“Ease of access coupled with messaging for e-cigarettes and desirable flavors make these products appealing to young people,“ Stone said. “Nicotine is a powerful substance which has significant health consequences in the immediate and in the future.”