Nolan Pakulski Contributing Writer
Vaping, a habit growing in popularity across the nation as well as among UMF students, is prohibited under school policy, a regulation seemingly unknown to the student population. UMF is a federally funded institution and must comply with federal laws restricting the use of substances. Therefore substances such as cigarettes, nicotine vapes and marijuana vapes are forbidden on campus.
“They’re not to be on campus. You can’t have them in dorms. [Campus] is smoke free property,” said Officer Sandy Burke of Public Safety. Around campus are green signs that say campus is a tobacco free zone and vaping falls under that category.
But among students it seems to be a normal thing to vape on campus. “I think it’s quite popular,” said Burke. “I’ve seen some students walking around with them.” If found in possession of a nicotine vape, Public Safety will confiscate the device.
Marijuana vapes likewise cannot be used or possessed on campus. It is similar to tobacco’s regulations in policy but marijuana is federally illegal, even if the user is 21 years of age making it legal by Maine state law. Marijuana possession on campus can result in a fine or a court summons. Generally though, Public Safety will confiscate the marijuana and potentially issue a fine. But according to Burke, consequences may reflect the frequency at which an individual is caught with substances as it “depends on [how] many times. Then you get a summons.”
Vaping has become increasingly popular in the U.S. since its introduction into the market in 2007. So much so that the Surgeon General, Dr. Jerome Adams, has proclaimed it to be an “epidemic.”
In most vapes is a substance known as “e-liquid” that according to the FDA contains nicotine, “varying compositions of flavors”, propylene glycol, vegetable glycerin, and other chemicals. These chemicals are heated and turned into a vapor which the user inhales into their lungs.
“It’s just like any other drug, its addicting” said Burke. Currently there is little regulation on what goes into the “e-liquid” which makes it dangerous to the consumer.
E-liquid comes in a variety of flavors ranging from mint, synthetic tobacco, and even Swedish Fish. The flavor is part of why it’s so appealing to consumers who otherwise would not have started using nicotine products in the first place, as flavoring eliminates the unappealing aspect of smoke from traditional tobacco products. The FDA cites, from a 2013-2014 study, that in 81% of vape users, “the availability of appealing flavors as the primary reason for use”.
A startling study conducted by the FDA, researchers found that 3.62 million middle and high schoolers in 2018 used e-cigarettes. The FDA classifies e-cigarettes/vapes as being “non combustible tobacco products”. Although the vapor is produced through combustion, it is still harmful to the user’s lungs. Vaping and the smoking of marijuana, creates an effect on the lungs known as “popcorn lung”, in which parts of the lung become scarred and more narrow, which can cause breathing issues in those afflicted with the condition.