Adrienne Leinwand Maslin
Caught! A Blog on Smoking and Vaping
Updated: Jul 13, 2021
Long before it was in vogue, I was against smoking in public spaces. I was never a smoker so it was easy for me to be against it. I was in favor of banning smoking from restaurants, airplanes, hospitals—which I always thought was whacked out, stadiums, trains, schools, and wherever it was allowed except for the privacy of one’s own home. As a child, I remember sitting in restaurants with my family and being bothered by the second-hand smoke that would waft my way. As an adult I was bothered by the cigarette smoke of fellow students and professors at college and colleagues at the office. I wasn’t much for the bar scene because the smoke made my eyes burn. As a college administrator, I argued for a smoke-free campus and, after many years, achieved that goal. All smoking was pushed to the front of the parking lots and, even then, I argued for the smoking areas to be pushed even further out. I lost that one.
It took a while for the new policy to take hold and students, and some faculty and staff, tried to sneak a cigarette here or there in a place where smoking was prohibited. “But it’s raining out,” they would whine, hoping I would give in to their need to stay covered in the building entryway while they smoked away. I wasn’t swayed and politely asked that they move or stub out their smokes. They typically did the latter and lit up again as soon as I moved on. I couldn’t be everywhere at once. I now had a new mission—to convince others to help me monitor the smoking situation—and, after several years, there was a culture shift and the concept of a smoke-free campus was accepted. Now, even on rainy days, people move out to the parking lots, umbrellas in hand, to smoke.
Some students came to the conclusion that the prohibition on smoking did not include vaping. And, again, the college administration had to enforce the rules. We also had to be sure our signage and written policies explicitly mentioned vaping as a prohibited act to give us the validation we needed to put a stop to vaping in bathrooms, hallways, lounge areas, and even outdoors on the campus proper.
What I heard from students, like a mantra, is that vaping was better than smoking. “It ain’t necessarily so,” I would say—or something more polished to go with my image as a senior level administrator—and I would provide factual information in an attempt to persuade them to stop vaping for reasons of their own good health, rather than because it was policy.
You should have seen what happened to Carter and King when they were caught smoking and vaping in the bushes behind Bark Palace School. You know, Miss Edna doesn’t show her temper very often but, let me tell you, she was angry that day! I don’t think I’ve ever seen her like that. Technically, she "asked" them to come into her office. I mean, it was a question. But it sounded more like a demand. Of course, Miss Edna closed the door. With a bang! I don’t know what she said to Carter and King. We were hoping to listen at the door but Dr. Cleo came in to supervise us. All we know is that they had to do 100 hours of community service and do research on smoking and vaping and make a presentation to the class.
Well, you know Carter and King! They’re tricksters. It was hilarious!! They used all their magic and they taught me so much! For example, did you know that cigarettes and e-cigarettes both contain nicotine? And nicotine is addictive and can lead to heart attack! And something else I hadn’t thought about at all! They said that while it takes many years for someone who smokes cigarettes to get cancer, people who vape can develop lung disease within just one year! And, they said second-hand vape smoke does harm other people! Who knew? Maybe you can get Carter and King to come to your school.
Roxanne really enjoyed the presentation and learned so much from it. She only told you a fraction of the information Carter and King presented but I saw their presentation and they made a compelling case for not starting either smoking or vaping. One thing that’s important for kids to understand is that the younger a person is when they start smoking and vaping, the greater the likelihood that they will become addicted to nicotine. This is because children’s brains are still developing. And a nicotine addiction can, in turn, lead to mood disorders, an inability to concentrate, and a lack of attention and self-control. (www.kidshealth.org)
Here’s some food for thought from the website of the American Lung Association (www.lung.org):
. . . e-cigarette composition and effects vary. What researchers do know is that these toxic chemicals and metals have all been found in e-cigarettes:
Nicotine—a highly addictive substance that negatively affects adolescent brain development
Propylene glycol—a common additive in food; also used to make things like antifreeze, paint solvent, and artificial smoke in fog machines
Carcinogens—chemicals known to cause cancer, including acetaldehyde and formaldehyde
Acrolein—a herbicide primarily used to kill weeds, can cause irreversible lung damage
Diacetyl—a chemical linked to a lung disease called bronchiolitis obliterans aka "popcorn lung"
Diethylene glycol—a toxic chemical used in antifreeze that is linked to lung disease
Heavy metals such as nickel, tin, lead
Cadmium—a toxic metal found in traditional cigarettes that causes breathing problems and disease
Benzene—a volatile organic compound (VOC) found in car exhaust
Ultrafine particles that can be inhaled deep into the lungs
If that's not enough to deter someone from vaping I don't know what is!
While there are better ways to quit smoking than to take up vaping, the best thing is for young people not to start in the first place. But it’s hard to stop them. Vaping makes them look cool, so they think. It’s new, it’s in. Everyone is doing it! Vape devices are attractive; all the colors and shiny metal. And the vape juice—the part that contains nicotine and other chemicals—comes in so many fun flavors!
I don’t have the secret for preventing vaping. Nor am I a parenting expert. But the literature and my own experiences when my son was a youngster suggest these things: set a good example by not smoking or vaping yourself; be aware of the attraction that vaping holds; talk to your kids about the financial costs of vaping and smoking as well as the health costs; remind them that these activities, because they reduce lung capacity, negatively impact their ability to be competitive in sports; and be sure they know that both vaping and smoking will leave them with yellowed teeth and stinky breath. Kids want to be their best selves and if they can eschew vaping and smoking they are one step closer to achieving that goal.