College health officials express concerns over vape ban

College health officials expressed apprehension about the effects Gov. Charlie Baker’s four-month ban on the sale of vaping products could have on students. 

The ban, implemented on Sep. 24, includes all in-store or online purchases of vaping products that contain nicotine, THC, or CBD. The temporary ban will come to an end in Massachusetts on Jan. 25, 2020. 

The Governor set the ban in place after declaring a public health emergency following a series of vaping related illnesses that spread across 48 states. Baker said in a press conference released by the Governor’s Press Office on Sep. 24 that his ban will assist in figuring out what is making residents sick and how to better regulate the sale of vaping products.

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The Massachusetts Department of Public Health reported the state’s first death from a vaping-associated lung injury, a woman in her 60s from Hampshire County, on Oct. 7, according to a press release.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released a report on Oct. 1, that identified 1,080 lung injuries and 18 deaths that have been directly connected to vaping.   

Associate Director of the Center for Health and Wellness Lauren Owen said vaping is something her department has become more aware of as it has grown in popularity in the last few years. Although the official number of Emerson students who vape is unclear, Owen said many incoming students have arrived on campus already using their own e-cigarettes. 

“I see a lot of students who come in saying that they vape,” Owen said. “I wouldn’t be able to give you a number but it’s very common.” 

Freshman Trent Cappelli said he quit using a disposable nicotine vape called a “Stig” right before the ban took effect. 

“I just kept reading stuff about people getting sick in the media, like about 12 and 13 year olds who were addicted to vaping and were having withdrawal symptoms,” he said in an interview. 

Although Massachusetts took steps in 2018 to protect young people by raising the age to purchase cigarettes and vaping products to 21, this new ban takes the issue of public health even farther by banning the sale of vaping products altogether. 

However, Owen said the Center for Health and Wellness’ main concern following the ban is that students will either continue to buy vaping products from unreliable or dangerous places or that they will begin smoking cigarettes.

“We are just scared that kids will be buying e-cigarettes on the streets and in alleyways where anything could be in them,” Owen said. 

Freshman Zoe Rivera said she has been using a Juul, one of the most popular e-cigarette brands, for two years now. 

“I’ve always managed to get my hands on Juul pods and kids will find a way to get their hands on them too,” Rivera said. 

Owen said students should come to the Center for Health and Wellness for assistance if they are trying to quit vaping or smoking, as the department offers addiction counseling for all students.

“I help lead tobacco cessation counseling for students who are trying to stop smoking,” Owen said. “We would love if students came in to get help for vaping. I’m not sure if they will, but I hope they do.”

Baker said in his press conference that his temporary ban is about protecting the health of people in Massachusetts, but both Rivera and Cappelli said they do not believe it will be effective. 

“We need so much more information given to people about vaping—a ban like this will only make young people want to do it more,” Cappelli said.

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