Five dead nationwide due to vaping-related illnesses

vaping
Advertising can make e-cigarettes seem “harmless” to young people, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Photo by Kento Komatsu, staff photographer

Vaping related habits are killing people. As of Sept. 8, 450 lung illnesses have been linked to vaping, according to the Centers for Disease Control. There have been five reported deaths thus far.

“I am not up here to tell you why you shouldn’t be smoking e-cigarettes,” said Georgiana Bostean, a sociology and environmental science professor.

Bostean held the event Sept. 4, where she shared her vape-related research. Bostean’s presentation included discussion on the impact proximity to vape stores can have on youth populations.

“Tobacco literature has shown that exposure to marketing, exposure to retailers – even if you aren’t buying from those particular retailers – influences youth smoking behaviors. We imagine the same is true for e-cigarettes as well,” Bostean said.

At the Sept. 4 event that discussed who’s at risk and what’s at stake, Bostean examined the California vape store environment and how it can impact disparities in the community’s health.

“I haven’t vaped before, but seeing that it’s prevalent and a lot of people do it now, I feel like it can’t be good for you,” said Amanda Shontere, a junior business administration major. “More kids are doing it because it looks to be safer.”

In Orange County, 27.5 percent of high school students and 13.4 percent of middle school students have tried vaping at some point. In addition, middle school students whose school grounds are within a quarter-mile from vape retailers are 15 percent more likely to use e-cigarettes than those who aren’t.

Among the cases of lung illnesses reported so far, most patients are in their late teens and young adult years according to federal health officials. Lab results show that samples gathered from those who have fallen ill contain an oil created from Vitamin E, which can be used as a nutritious supplement, but can be dangerous when inhaled.

“Population studies have shown that adolescents view e-cigarettes as far less risky than real cigarettes,” Bostean said. “It’s unclear whether changing their risk perception is enough to change their behavior.”

Steven Schandler, a psychology professor who studies risk factors with substance abuse, said that adolescents may be more likely to vape because they want to be accepted.

“Adolescents tend to have a problem with self-confidence,” he said. “They see it as a way of gaining entrance into the group. It’s always been that way with substance abuse in adolescents.”

The vaping trend is occurring within Chapman’s community as well, despite campus being smoke-free. Shontere, a transfer student, has seen people vaping just outside of campus grounds.

“I haven’t seen it on campus, but off campus and at parties,” she said.

Vincent Berardi, a psychology professor who worked with Bostean on her research, shared that a main issue is changing the mentality around the vaping.

“The biggest thing is the attitudes,” he said. “Smoking cigarettes has been the number one public health victory in this country, but what changed was the attitudes around it.”

The lung illnesses across the nation leaves Bostean questioning the uncertain future of vaping.

“It’s going to take a lot more than these several hundred cases to get youth to rethink whether they should experiment or not,” she said.