Vaping has recently been linked to various injuries, including several deaths, causing concern among BU professors and students.
Vaping products, whether they are disposable or rechargeable, heat aerosols that users inhale, according to the Centers for Disease Control. Along with aerosols, vapes contain heavy metals such as nickel and lead that are modified when subject to heating by the device.
Hasmeena Kathuria, an associate professor at BU’s School of Medicine and Vice Chair of the Tobacco Action Committee for the American Thoracic Society, said inhaling any foreign substance into one’s lungs is unhealthy.
“I think we need to raise more awareness that vaping, and really inhaling any aerosol, is just unsafe,” Kathuria said.
Kathuria said that some believe that the recent hospitalizations are from contaminated illegal vapes, but she thinks that legal vape products are to blame.
Kathuria said she fears that, alongside health issues, a threat that comes with the accessibility of vaping and e-cigarette products is the likelihood of nicotine-addicted students moving toward using combustible cigarettes.
“Through policy we have been able to finally decrease the amount of combustible cigarette smoke and now with the introduction of vaping and e-cigarettes, we’re seeing the rise of nicotine products,” Kathuria said. “So that’s our worry, after the kids are addicted and hear about these dangers from vaping that we’re all seeing in the media now, they could start smoking cigarettes.”
Kaija Schilde, an associate professor of international relations, thinks that if the university encouraged students to not vape, it could be an effective method to decrease vaping across campus.
“Social scientists think that a very effective way to change behavior is to incentivize people though ‘nudging’ them to do or not do something,” Schilde wrote in an email. “But it requires coordination and resources.”
In Massachusetts, steps have been taken to ban flavored products in a continued attempt to turn teenage users away. In 2018, lawmakers passed a bill that raised the minimum age required to purchase products containing nicotine from 18 to 21. Now, a bill is in the works to ban all flavored nicotine products.
While these laws won’t cover THC vape products, one of the goals is to help mitigate the effects of companies marketing their flavored nicotine products to adolescents, according to CBS Boston.
Kathuria said she believes because vapes and e-cigarettes are targeted towards a younger audience, BU should create more of an awareness because those products contain addictive substances like nicotine.
“I know that most college campuses are tobacco free and nicotine free, but we need to figure out how to enforce those rules more without getting these nicotine addicted students in trouble,” Kathuria said. “People aren’t going to report their addiction if they’re in fear of getting in trouble.”
Juli Alonso, a sophomore in the College of Communication, has not noticed a decline in on-campus vaping.
“There is constant vaping across all classes here and there’s no more ‘common time’ for people to vape,” Alonso said. “People vape before, during, after class, breakfast, lunch, and dinner.”
Megan Murtagh, a graduate student, thinks that vaping should be a growing concern for many students.
“I actually haven’t seen a lot compared to my undergraduate which was Miami University, so I don’t think it’s that prevalent. And definitely now that people have died from it, its something people need to worry about more and learn the effects and what the consequences long term are.”
Julia Stathis, a freshman in the Questrom School of Business, said she feels the use of vape and e-cigarette products may decline with the recent publicity of associated hospitalizations.
“I think as more and more news comes out about deaths due to vaping, Stathis said, “more and more people are starting to realize the danger and are trying to quit vaping.”
Angie Serafini, a freshman in the College of Arts and Sciences, said she thinks BU should raise more awareness of the dangers of vaping.
“I feel like it’s definitely a bigger problem than just BU, because it’s everywhere,” Serafini said. They could create more awareness, but ultimately I think nicotine is a drug, it’s an addiction. Making people more aware will probably deter people from starting but those who are already addicted need more than just that.”