College Cautions Against Vaping

Nat McCloud ’23, Contributing Writer

Dickinson College students are being warned not to use vaporizers, also termed electronic (e) -cigarettes or vapes, by administration and health officials following more evidence that use of these devices may lead to health issues. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) has reported at least 380 cases of lung disease caused by vaporizer usage, including six deaths. 

Nancy Cicak, a nurse practitioner at the Dickinson Wellness Center, explained that the college is aware of the issue and is taking steps to respond. “We’ve always been aware that it [vaping] was happening on campus,” Cicak said, “and as people are being hospitalized and there have been six deaths as a result of upper respiratory complications, we are realizing this is our age group. Let’s be aware of this.”

Dickinson prohibits all vaping in buildings, including residence halls, as part of the college smoking policy. Vaping was added to the smoking policy in 2014, due to health concerns. Assistant Dean of Students Elizabeth Farner said that “Dickinson plans to continue to not permit e-cigarettes as a part of its policy and will wait for more information from the CDC and will continue to educate students about the health risks.” The college does punish those who violate the policy. “The Department of Public Safety responds to calls for students that are vaping. They typically give the student a warning or refer the student to student conduct,” Farner said. 

Cicak said she is especially troubled by the popular understanding that vaping is safe. “The sad part of the whole vaping culture is that it’s presented as a safe alternative, but nicotine is addictive no matter what component it is presented in. It was never approved as a cessation product,” she said. 

According to The New York Times, E-cigarettes were designed to help smokers quit but have quickly become popular among youth who were not already smokers. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), roughly 21 percent of young adults have used a vaporizer in 2018, up from 1.5 percent in 2011.

The Wellness Center is creating a response to the surge in vaping. It plans to add a question about vaping symptoms to the list that all students are asked when they visit the health center, though the phrasing of the question has not been finalized. They also have ordered anti-vaping posters that will be going up in the coming weeks. “We don’t want to demonize, so I think we’ve got some, I think, cool posters,” Cicak said.

E-cigarettes often contain nicotine, though they are not required to report their ingredients. Nicotine stunts the development of the brain, which does not finish developing until age 25. Despite some vape products being labelled and marketed as nicotine-free, the products still have been found to have nicotine in them, according to the CDC.

Cicak urged students to visit the Wellness Center if they are concerned that vaping has impacted their health. “It’s an important information to rule out and we aren’t going to fool around if it’s suspected as the cause of an illness,” she said.