Story by Doug Close
Photo courtesy of Anna Miloutina
A plume of bluish, milky smoke billows from a student’s vape pen outside of Beckman Hall.
Over the past few years, perhaps no activity has gained as much attention as vaping, or the use of e-cigarettes.
“I definitely think there's a huge vape culture – I got to go to a few trade shows with my company, one in Houston, and there is a very tight-knit feeling of community within the vapers that show up to these events, as well as various vaping events held throughout the US on a regular basis,” says junior Anna Miloutina, who works in the marketing department at Vape Dynasty’s offices in Orange.
“Most hardcore vapers, through my observations, have been through a lot in life. Many of those that are dedicated enough to come to events have come from a background of drug or alcohol abuse, gone through treatment and started smoking cigarettes as a replacement, and then transitioned to vaping as a way of quittin,” Miloutina said. “Vaping is something that gathers these people together and has become a hobby rivaling an interest in sports. Quite a few vapers that I've met are sober, and have been sober for a long time. This does not count college students picking up vaping as a trend – I'm speaking about mid to late-20 and 30 year olds specifically. Vape shops become a hangout, and vaping becomes a similar community as AA (and many vapers know each other through AA as well).”
This month in California, a state Senate committee approved a measure regulating the places where e-smokers can vape, but local and national health officials have been at the center of the debate throughout the state for more than a year.
The heart of the issue is just how commonplace public nicotine consumption should be and how much regulation vaping should be subjected to.
Public health officials worry vaping, a process through which a liquid of nicotine and flavoring is heated into vapor and inhaled, is a new way to hook kids on nicotine.
“Vaping is absolutely marketed to children,” says Orange County Public Health Officer Dr. Pamela Kingston. Orange County already has a ban in place in some cities, prohibiting vaping exactly like smoking — including in bars, restaurants and workplaces. Many cities in the county are passing similar measures.
So where does Chapman stand on the issue?
“Our designated smoking spots apply to vaping as well,” said Lt. Bill Herrin of Public Safety. “In our eyes, it’s the same thing, even if one is healthier for you. It’s still under the umbrella of smoking, so that’s what we treat it like.”
Miloutina was quick to draw a difference between vaping and smoking.
“I think it's incredibly unfair to group smoking and vaping together,” she said. “I personally still smoke cigarettes as I haven't quit yet, but vaping has severely helped me cut down. Vaping is not nearly as harmful as cigarettes and while I don't think people should bother others with massive clouds of vapor inside public areas, I also do not think it should be equated with cigarettes. Most vapers have quit and turned their lives around and would be offended to be grouped with smokers – I get a lot of heat from my boss and coworkers over still smoking cigarettes.”
An increasing number of young adults are taking up nicotine, and the potential for addiction, through e-cigarettes, according to the California Department of Public Health. About 17 percent of high school seniors say that they actively vape.
Senior Greg Millikan, who quit smoking cigarettes by taking up vaping instead, praised the effect that it has had on his life.
“Moving to something similar to a cigarette but without the carcinogenic tobacco allows me to not live in a craving situation and not need tobacco. It works great. It is the best device for quitting smoking,” Millikan said.
So, while the jury may still be out on whether vaping is actually any better for you than smoking in the long run, vaping continues to be a constant cultural topic among the student body and nation.
For Miloutina, vaping has had a positive impact on her.
“Vaping definitely has had a positive impact,” she said. “It's a hobby – the more you know, the more fun it is, and it gives you something to bond with others over. I got my current job through Craigslist and knew nothing about vaping beforehand, and was enveloped into the community. The people I've met, events I've gotten to attend and the experiences I've had have been fascinating and somewhat life changing, considering I never would have met the people I have without this as a catalyst. It all depends on how into it you are – the more involved you are in vaping the more you get out of it, or there are many people as well that are casual vapers and just do it occasionally for fun or as a party trick, and that's fine too! It's a very inclusive community.”