May 9, 2021

Vaping during a pandemic: T21 and extra risks

Smoking has been a phenomenon among teens for decades. Up until the 1920s, most smokers had been men. Once tobacco companies started advertising their products to women, smoking became common for both men and women of all ages. 

Information gathered from The Washington Post and Healthline.

Since then, tobacco products have expanded beyond a simple cigarette or cigar. Vaping products have become one of the most, if not the most, popular form of tobacco consumption, especially for teenagers and young adults. 

In December 2019, Congress signed Bill “T21”, otherwise known as “Tobacco 21”, which raised the age of legal tobacco consumption to 21. This caused outrage from tobacco consumers who fell in the age gap of 18-20. Shortly after this law change, the Trump administration put a partial ban on all flavored vaping devices. All pre-filled pods for e-cigarettes must avoid “appealing” flavors. The goal of this was to decrease the amount of underage consumption. 

Companies such as Juul ended up discontinuing all of their pod flavors except menthol, virginia tobacco, and classic tobacco. Fan favorites such as mango, cucumber, fruit, and creme were discontinued, and mint became a rare find in gas stations. 

Since then, many have quit vaping due to not wanting to go through the trouble of finding someone over 21 to purchase the supplies for them. Others have not taken this course of action. 

To some, this may not feel as though it is an epidemic. To others, underage tobacco consumption is a serious issue, especially in the midst of a pandemic. 

Beka Brumbaugh, second-year creative writing student shares her opinion on vaping during this pandemic. 

“Don’t share if you have your own [vape]. That’s fine [if you own your own vape]. Do it by yourself. Do it in your car. Do it outside so the wind picks it up. Just don’t share your device,” she said.  

Brumbaugh explains that she worries that students will share their vaping devices without thinking about the long term effects. When sharing a vaping device, both individuals have put their mouth on the pod. This simple contact can spread saliva, resulting in the spread of COVID-19. 

Brumbaugh also disagrees with T21, explaining that individuals over 18 should legally be allowed to purchase and consume tobacco products.

 “I feel [being] over 18 years old, you are your own adult. If we can risk our lives for our country, we should be able to vape. But that’s just my opinion,” Brumbaugh said.

Brumbaugh continues by praising those who have chosen to quit and encourages others to quit vaping if they feel that is what is best for them. 

When asked what advice to give to those who are currently in the process of quitting nicotine, she said, “Give yourself rewards. Like if you go a day without vaping, go treat yourself. Treat yourself to a muffin or something. Good for you [for quitting], especially during COVID season.” 

Muffins and other treats are very good things to reward yourself with when in the process of quitting nicotine. For some, though, the withdrawal process can be brutal. 

Vaping products are commonly used to quit smoking cigarettes, but these devices activate the dopamine chemical in the user’s brain. This is what causes the product to be so addictive. 

There are several different ways to quit vaping. Some try to quit “cold turkey,” where one quits all together, not allowing themselves to have any slip-ups. This can work for some, but overall is not suggested. Doing this will cause your body’s tolerance to decrease, so if you have a slip-up or relapse you have a higher risk of becoming addicted again. 

A more productive way to quit vaping is to slowly let it out of your system by avoiding your triggers. If you are unsure of what your specific triggers are, make a list throughout your day of different interactions and times you want to take a hit. At the end of the day, you can look back and analyze what makes you crave nicotine throughout the day. Once you are able to recognize your triggers, you can avoid them. Things such as stress, insomnia, boredom, and even certain smells can all be triggering.

Chewing gum, eating snacks, and drinking water are all good ways to distract yourself whenever you get a craving or experience a trigger.  

Another way to motivate yourself is to do research about the long term effects of vaping. Being informed about  what may happen to your body due to this addiction is helpful. If you don’t want to quit vaping, at least be informed on the risks you are taking. 

If you, or anyone else you know, is struggling with nicotine addiction, call 800-QUIT-NOW. 

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