Cornellians dissected the widespread use of juuls and vapes — portable nicotine dispensers — amongst their peers in a public forum where student moderators and audience members alike offered their opinions on a youth phenomenon that the federal government calls an “epidemic.”
The Wednesday public forum was hosted by Debate in Science and Health, a Cornell club focused on “engaging controversies in science, bioethics, medical ethics, and public health & policy,” according to their website. Rather than being a one-way lecture by the student group, the event involved extensive back-and-forth between the event’s host and the audience members where the latter were encouraged to offer their opinion on vaping.
“The most problematic part of [vaping] is that what we are looking at now is an epidemic amongst the younger generations,” Lawrence Kwong ‘21, DSH vice president of community events, said at the beginning of the public forum.
Topics that were covered included the sudden rise in popularity of vaping — specifically of juul pods — the potential negative health implications of nicotine use, and possible remedies for widespread use of nicotine products, especially by minors in recent years.
Kwong noted that while vapes are considerably more dangerous than commonly believed — a single juul pod contains more nicotine than a pack of cigarettes — users still vape for the mental comfort of taking in nicotine.
“[Nicotine] makes the neurotransmitter acetylcholine, and it acts as both a relaxant and a stimulant,” Kwong said.
While some people have argued e-cigarettes and vapes could help cigarette smokers stop smoking, Kwong asked the audience members if they believed this to be the case. By a show of hands, the audience concurred that, while some people certainly use it for its intended effects, the majority of people that use vapes or e-cigarettes are not using it to stop smoking cigarettes.
Multiple people in the forum noted that many of their friends had started vaping as a social activity, having never touched a cigarette or other nicotine product previously, and now had progressed to smoking cigarettes or had a nicotine addiction.
When asked about why people seemed to be more inclined to vape, even when they knew it contained so much nicotine, audience members said they smoke because they are unaware of the health consequences of what seems like an innocent “fun activity.”
“Because it is so new, people haven’t tested it yet so there is a lot of uncertainty. I think that’s a reason people do it more [than cigarettes]. … If we show that it’s harmful then less people will do it,” said Rishi Singhal ‘21, the social chair of Debate in Science and Health.
“People don’t want to get lung cancer, they see just juuling as a fun activity to do,” he continued, citing how many individuals don’t actually know that juul pods contain large quantities of nicotine.
Others posited that widespread vaping use was due to lax regulations, with audience member Nathaniel Dwyer ’21 arguing that, unlike cigarettes, there is no government-led public relations campaign against vapes.