MALLIKA MAKKAR/THE VARSITY

The repercussions of vaping can no longer be understated. As of this week, there have been a total of 21 confirmed vaping-related deaths in the United States alone, as well as 1,000 vaping-related lung injuries recorded thus far. Despite recent revelations pertaining to the risks of vaping, the popularity of e-cigarettes and other similar products has continued to rise. In recent years, vaping has become increasingly popular, particularly among young adults.

Undergrads at risk?

According to a recent survey conducted by Health Canada, almost one in four students from grades 7–12 have admitted to vaping at least once. Additionally, researchers at the University of Waterloo found that from 2017–2018, there was a 74 per cent increase in vaping among 16–19 year olds. 

Worryingly, a report released by the Centres for Disease Control and Protection (CDC) found that 80 per cent of patients admitted due to vaping-related illnesses are under the age of 35. The CDC, which analyzed 373 cases linked to vaping, found that 16 per cent of patients were under the age of 18, while two thirds of patients were between the ages of 18 and 24. 

The symptoms

Those affected were reported as being weak and short of breath, with many patients requiring additional assistance breathing. These individuals received supplemental oxygen, and, in more serious cases, were placed on ventilators. As of now, it remains to be seen whether there will be any serious or long-lasting effects.

Despite the recent influx of patients experiencing vaping-related health complications, surprisingly little is known about the long-term health effects of sustained vaping. In fact, no specific components of vaping, such as the ingredients or the devices, have been definitively linked to these recent health developments.

Due to the prevalence of THC usage among patients, researchers are actively studying the possible connections between the ingredient and illness. However, there is no evidence as of yet confirming THC’s role in these cases. With little else to go on, many health experts are advising the public against the use of e-cigarettes or other related goods, and furthermore to abstain from vaping altogether. 

The effect on athletics

Nicotine use among athletes is estimated to be between 25–50 per cent. Young athletes are being heavily affected by this newfound epidemic, making it harder for them to breathe, and decreasing their motivation to practice and play. Many have observed a link between vaping and respiratory illnesses. The effects that vaping has on athletic performance are also a common concern that users bring up when discussing their symptoms.

Another major concern that some athletes who vape highlighted is fear of being kicked off their team, or being demoted in some way if they are caught. There is little support in terms of cessation programs, and young people are often faced with punitive measures if they are caught. This makes it difficult to talk about the issue, and for athletes to get any help they may need. Among college students, vaping is also linked to depression, which would explain the decreased motivation that many athletes experience.

U of T fails to respond

Currently, U of T has combined any vaping-related policies with those already in place for traditional smoking. An example of this came  up in January, when the university banned smoking and vaping on campus. Although smoke-free workplace policies are proven to reduce tobacco consumption by up to 3.8 per cent, no such studies have been conducted in relation to vaping.

Officially, U of T has a total of three options to provide assistance for students who vape, options that are also intended for traditional smokers. These include meeting with a health care professional, accessing free nicotine replacement therapy, or being referred to Smokers Helpline.

U of T needs to do more. These services fail to recognize the disconnect between traditional smokers and contemporary vapers, and the plurality of differences between the two groups. Simply hoping that vapers will respond to services intended for traditional smokers is naïve, and quite frankly, unacceptable.

Moving forward, the university must take steps to further educate students on the risks of vaping, while additionally providing sufficient tailored resources for current vapers looking to quit. U of T needs to take preventative action now, lest the consequences be dire for its students.

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