Tough puff: recent vaping deaths spark controversy

John Kelly, Editor

Vaping. It’s been the talk of parents, media, and politicians alike for the last few years, and especially over the last couple of weeks. But what started the newest controversy?

According to the FDA, over 500 vaping related illnesses and seven deaths have been reported. Many of these illnesses and deaths have come all at once. President Donald Trump responded to this issue by calling for a ban on all flavored vaping products. This has sparked controversy in high schools across the nation with responses ranging from support for Trump’s solution to downright anger. 

Is banning flavored vaping products the best solution? A ban could create a black market for unregulated vape juices that would potentially be even more dangerous for young people. Most of these sudden health problems are stemming from black market vaping products such as unregulated THC cartridges. The media in general has been reporting these cases as “vaping deaths,” which isn’t necessarily wrong, but it is misleading. Typically, when adults think of vaping they think of traditional “Juuling,” but these sudden trips to the hospital aren’t from your everyday nicotine vape. 

To get an adult’s perspective on the recent news, I interviewed three adults: a father, Steve Kelly, a school administrator, Joe Doyle, and a younger adult, government teacher Clay Lumpe. 

“I don’t really know why people are dying all of a sudden, but I think that vaping chemicals isn’t necessarily a good alternative to smoking cigarettes,” said Kelly. 

“What I know is that it’s very addictive. It’s causing a new generation to be addicted, not just high schoolers but middle school too… the thing that scares me is that we still don’t know the long term effects of what these chemicals are doing to our youth… big vaping companies know what they are doing and they know how easy their products are for people to get,” said Lumpe. 

“As an assistant principal I’ve seen just about everything. I never dreamed that there would be so many flavors and varieties. Not only am I amazed with the different flavors, but the amount of nicotine in some of these things is insane. I’ve seen first hand that these things have made teenagers addicted and it’s bad…,” said Doyle. “I’m also aware of the THC pens. Those things are scary because no one really knows what’s being put in them. Big vaping companies want to point out that these fake carts are the problem rather than taking responsibility. I think that young adults and students’ mindsets is that if it’s legal in a certain place, then it’s safe to use… I would say that from what I’ve seen at least that vape use in general is on the decline. I think that this was a fad that lasted a couple years and the majority of people have stopped doing it.”

Out of the three interviewed, only Doyle mentioned the counterfeit carts. Although it’s no secret that vaping is bad for you, the “homemade” cartridges are a serious danger and a ban on flavored vaping could increase this industry even more. Because all THC products are illegal in the state of Indiana, teenage Hoosiers are especially at risk.  

Many big media sources are failing to mention what, specifically, people are vaping to make themselves ill. These media outlets bring in doctors and “vaping experts,” but fail to get a perspective from actual teenagers and what their experiences are with vaping and addiction. A common misconception that the media preaches is that teenagers are unaware of the damage they are doing to their health. The fact of the matter is, most are well aware of what they are doing to their body. 

“I know how bad it is for me,” said an anonymous vaper from Bloomington North. “I used to just do it every once in a while for fun, but then I started using it to deal with stress and I became dependent on it. Every time I try to quit I feel terrible and I can’t go without it.”

 For vapers who are hoping to quit, South offers periodic tobacco cessation classes. See your counselor or the health office for details.