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The Great American Smokeout Blows Up Vape Debate

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Photo credit: Communicator archive

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Written by: Communicator StaffNovember 11, 2015

Written by Bernadette Becker

Great American Smokeout, an event to promote smoking cessation, will happen on campus Nov. 19 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. in Kettler Hall. The event will include free health screenings and tips on how to stop smoking and help friends quit.

The Great American Smokeout is an annual, nationwide event sponsored by the American Cancer Association, according to the American Cancer Association website, and IPFW has celebrated this event for decades.

This year, IPFW’s goal is to tackle the new trends of e-cigarettes and vaping. Judy Tillapaugh, RD, ACSM, HFS, the IPFW wellness/fitness coordinator, who is overseeing this event, explained IPFW’s policy bans all smoking, tobacco, vapes and electronic cigarettes.

Although people think vapes or e-cigarettes are more healthy than smoking, and they are a “reduced harm tobacco product” as reported by the American Association of Public Health Physicians, there is little research on the long-term health impacts, as reported by the National Institute on Drug Abuse in August 2015.

Grayson Ostermeyer, a student and the lead peer health educator for IPFW, encouraged students to check where they get their information and see if their sources are receiving monetary benefits for promoting one view over another. Ostermeyer pointed out interesting parallels between the rise of e-cigarettes and vapes and how traditional tobacco gained traction by appealing to the youth with flavors and flashy advertising.

The World Health Organization recently reported that the new market of vapes and e-cigarettes could undo years of anti-tobacco progress.

Many proponents of vapes and e-cigarettes say the absence of tobacco and tar make e-cigarettes and vapes healthier and they could be a way to wean off traditional tobacco use. Vapes and e-cigarettes are not an end goal, however, because they have inherent health risks and chemicals in them, according to research by Ostermeyer and as from the National Institute on Drug Abuse.

This is “temporary pleasure over long-term health outcomes,” said Ostermeyer about tobacco and e-cigarette usage without any intention to quit.

He brought up that the cartridges in e-cigarettes and vapes can be very dangerous if a child or person were to ingest the liquid or have it touch their skin.

Josh Doehla, owner of the online shop “enervape,” said in a phone interview that since there are only four ingredients to the vapes and e-cigarettes and that it is a healthier option to the thousands of chemicals in cigarettes. However, they are only as safe as their maker and the choices of their user.

Doehla’s company offers caffeine as an option when making the liquids and nicotine is optional, however, he emphasized that the liquids should be kept out of reach of children and not ingested. One unique aspect of Doehla’s vision is that he sees an opportunity for vapes to be more than a tool to help people quit smoking. Instead, it could be a positive recreational activity.

Randy Obert, owner and general everyman of the Extreme Vapes Shop, said that he started his shop two years ago as a response to the people he saw dying from the adverse effects of smoking at his work in an asthma doctors office. Obert explained that he sees people come in daily and go from smoking two or three packs per day to eventually nonexistent amounts of nicotine.

Obert credits the success of people quitting to the unique ability of e-cigarettes to individually tackle the multifaceted problem of addiction. Instead of having to stop the physical, mental and emotional compulsion all at once, the smoker can wean off the nicotine, then deal with the the oral fixation or other habits involved, instead of weight gain or losing the battle.

Two patrons in the shop said thay they were both two- or three-packs-a-day smokers who found themselves smelling better, smoking less (or not at all), having extra money and aided by their e-cigarettes.

Heather Krull, M.S., RN, FNP-BC, a Nurse Practitioner at the campus clinic, worked in pulmonary medicine for several years prior to coming to IPFW, she said in a phone interview. Krull said that one of the most frequent comments she’d hear from patients as they were dying was: “I wish I would have quit smoking when I was young.”

Krull explained in many cases if a smoker quits before age 30 the lungs can recover well, whereas after 30 there is more likely to be permanent damage.

“We can help you stop,” said Linda Finke Ph. D., R.N., a professor of nursing and the executive director of health clinics and special projects at IPFW.

Finke has been part of the Fort Wayne Tobacco Free Coalition, the group that helped to pass the Allen County regulations that banned smoking in most public areas, and involved in the anti-smoking movement for years.

“Our mission is to help people be as healthy as possible, and we take what we do seriously,” said Finke, who noted that smoking is one of the few actions a person does that can directly impact the health of another person.

This is one of the many reasons the Smokeout aims to educate people on the reality of their choices and the truth about the health risks of smoking.

“It’s all through education,” Finke said, adding that the Smokeout seems to grow every year — as does the amount of research showing the negative effects of smoking on both the user and those exposed to the second hand smoke, particularly children.

“Your choices do affect others,” said Finke, who even mentioned that some states are ticketing people who are smoking in cars with passengers under 18.