Vape culture downplays health threat

Ashley Brooke Boyd | Cartoonist

Despite a sixth person dying due to a lung disease related to vaping in the United States, you can still find students hitting their Juul in Moody Memorial Library.

While the substance of vaping is believed to be less harmful than cigarettes, vaping culture has a far more sinister grip on teenagers and young adults today than smoking culture.

Accessibility and Convenience

One aspect is the overall accessibility of vapes and e-cigarettes, but most importantly the culture our generation has cultivated around this dangerous trend. When people smoke cigarettes habitually, they must carve out certain times of their day to satisfy their cravings.

Although Texas is one of the states that does not have a consistent 100% Smokefree Air Way Law, a large population of cities and counties have prohibited smoking in restaurants, bars and non-hospitality workplaces. Because smoking tobacco has become restricted and marked as taboo, finding a place to smoke cigarettes makes it more difficult.

Vaping does not have these barriers since it can be easily hidden and obscured in close quarters and outdoors. Young teens can rip their Juuls with their parents in the room next to them. High school students can vape in the bathrooms and hallways without being wary of getting caught. College students can hit their mods while their roommate is sleeping (and that’s just if the roommate is against vaping).

When something like vaping is so easily done in almost every building a person walks into, what is going to stop them from vaping constantly? If you have ever met someone who seems to have their hand glued to their Juul and their Juul glued to their lips, you have seen the repercussions of making nicotine so easily accessed and hidden.

Influence through social media

Brands, like Juul Labs and Smok, don’t even need to advertise when social media has normalized and glorified the use of vapes. Posts on Twitter about vaping and Juuls rake in hundreds of likes and retweets. While some posts mock those who vape, a majority of them are just relatable problems for people who vape. Most of them summarize users’ reactions when they lose their Juul or explain their preferences on vape flavors from mango to mint.

Users also tend to flex, or show off, their vapes in the pictures they post on Instagram or their Snapchat story. Most would argue, however, that those are posers only vaping for the trend. Is that better or worse than being tied down by an addiction?

Targeting younger generations

Even though people who vape are living and coughing billboards, Juul’s advertisement campaign is also a part of this problematic and deadly culture. When the most popular vape company was first starting out in 2015, its ads were targeted towards youths with young and attractive models looking cool and dressed in trendy clothing in front of a brightly colored background.

Juul is still receiving backlash and is facing lawsuits for these ads, but this ad campaign began to dwindle for one of their more recent ads, “Make the Switch.” Their more recent ads focus on an older audience: former smokers.

The newer $10 million television ad campaign emphasizes their real intentions to eliminate cigarettes and give smokers a healthier alternative to help them ween off their addiction. The commercials highlight the ages of their subjects and the period of time that they have been smoking cigarettes.

For example, one ad features a 54-year-old woman named Carolyn, a smoker for the past 30 years, as she reflects on how society’s perception of smoking has changed since she started.

Even though Juul is trying to refocus its target audience and change its image, an overwhelming majority of their customers never smoked a cigarette before turning to the Juul. These younger consumers who vape are actually more likely to turn to cigarettes and other forms of tobacco within two years according to data gathered by the Population Assessment of Tobacco and Health Study.

These advertisements still fail to acknowledge the health risks associated with the Juul as well as other vapes and e-cigarettes. As vaping has gained popularity, research has shown that there are long-term affects. In addition to harming consumers lungs, vaping also causes potentials dangers to the heart and brain.

The more a television commercial tells its audiences that vaping is “safer” than smoking, the more people will think vaping is safe in general.

Vape companies also have an opportunity to promote their products that was limited for cigarette companies. The slick and smooth Joe Camel, the face of R. J. Reynolds Tobacco Company’s Camel Cigarettes, was well-known to adults and children alike until the ’90s, but even he couldn’t show himself on the silver screen.

Camel’s kid-friendly face sold cigarettes on magazines and billboards but not television because Congress banned airing cigarette ads on April 1, 1970. The Public Health Cigarette Smoking Act stopped tobacco companies from advertising on television and radio airways until the invention of vapes and e-cigarettes.

Vapes and cigarettes were not addressed by the law, even though they were far from being mass produced (Interestingly enough they first device resembling a vape was technically invented by Herbert A. Gilbert sometime in the ‘60s).

Although children, teenagers and young adults are the main concern when people worry about vape advertisements, the device’s most recent fatality was a Kansas woman over the age of 50. Several other cases — over 450 possible cases now — concern younger teens and young adults, but many of them were vaping more than just nicotine.

As sales for cigarettes have decreased, vape sales have increased for younger generations. Since 2011, fewer middle and high school students use cigarettes, but more of them vape than ever before according to research conducted by the CDC. This data solidifies the argument that the culture surrounding vapes has more dangerous influence than cigarettes.

Lack of regulation

Research on marijuana vaporizers, sometimes called dab or wax pens, is limited because there is no federal regulation on these products.

They are still illegal and considered as dangerous as heroin and LSD by the federal government even though some states legalized medicinal and recreational marijuana use.

Because some of the cases are linked to vaping nicotine while others are also linked to vaping marijuana products, officials still have not been able to pinpoint one specific device or brand that is causing the lung diseases. Until there is more research done, we won’t know.

Vaping culture needs to change, whether it was created by the consumer, the company or both. Vapes may have been created with good intentions, but they missed the mark by a long shot.

Remember Baylor is a tobacco-free, smoke-free campus, so e-cigarettes are not allowed on Baylor property. The pharmacy located in the McLane Student Life Center offers Baylor approved nicotine replacement therapy such as gum and patches.

Help Baylor keep this campus tobacco-free and smoke-free. Spread the word that vaping and smoking are not cool and that they can be detrimental to their health. Support their friends who are quitting vaping or be there for those who still do not have the willpower to quit.