Why I’m hatin’ Vape Nation

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Illustration by Austin Clay Willis, Design Director.

My uncle Charlie had a beer in one hand and a cigarette in the other. He steered the truck with his knees.

If I wasn’t in the deadest, flattest, loneliest part of Alberta, my 15-year-old self would have stopped him. But without a ditch, let alone a tree or barn, between us and the frozen horizon of alfalfa crops, I figured if the car lost control I’d have an hour before I was in any real danger. By the time we struck something I would have died from lung cancer anyway. I have hair-trigger asthma, and my right to clean air was stolen by my moonshine-brewing, Vietnam-veteran uncle.

I had no idea that a decade later I’d have the same right stripped from me when I went to university.

I’ve been caught in clouds of vape when walking between classes. I’ve been caught in clouds of vape when sitting on the university green. But the other day was the first time that I was caught in a cloud of vape upon entering the bathroom — and that’s where I draw the line.

I’m smoking like a B.C wildfire from here on out. Because if vapers aren’t going to follow the rules, neither am I.

I don’t smoke cigars. Nor do I cigarettes, JUULs, or marijuana. But if anyone is going to jeopardize my asthma at 9 a.m. on a Monday morning, it’s going to be me.

It was 2013 when e-cigarettes (vapes) started to go mainstream. And after an explosion in popularity leading to 2016, when the ‘Vape Nation’ meme reached its peak (according to Google Trends), I thought that the buzz would at least die down as people became accustomed to the fad. Instead, its popularity tripled. I’m still under the impression that e-cigarettes and nicotine-filled vaporizers are to be used by recovering smokers as a ‘healthier’ alternative to tobacco products, not as a headrush-inducer to get through the day with. And I’ll abstain from removing ‘healthier’ from quotations until we see what inhaling vape juices does to the respiratory system in the future. Beyond what the juice itself contains, nicotine has numerous adverse effects on the body.

Anyone who thinks vapes are a zero-sum game is severely misinformed.

In 2018, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that as many as 20-30 per cent of American university students regularly vape. Hell, a Health Canada survey found that 25 per cent of Canadian high school students were vaping. I’m not one to oppose our liberal social freedoms in Canada, but if your freedom to vape impedes my freedom to breathe, then puff-puff-pass it is; I’m smoking cigars in the cafeteria.

Now, I don’t smoke cigars. Nor do I cigarettes, JUULs, or marijuana. But if anyone is going to jeopardize my asthma at 9 a.m. on a Monday morning, it’s going to be me.

Listen vapers, I get it. Vaping doesn’t reek like cigarettes, it doesn’t linger in clothing, and sometimes we all need a little pick-me-up (how do you think Felicita’s stays in business?) But when I’m stuck in rank and file in the midday campus commute and get hit by a rogue mango-kiwi-scented cumulonimbus, you can’t be upset if I throw a kite at you.

Respect my right to clean air within campus, and I’ll respect your right to destroy your body with all the flavours of the rainbow.

When UVic released its formal plan for smoking on campus following the legalization of marijuana (a great red ‘no’ encircling ring road), I thought my days of tight lungs were over. A mutual respect for one another coupled with the University’s support should amount to a perfectly breathable environment. But it doesn’t. The mindset that, “It’s better than cigarettes,” and, “It doesn’t smell bad,” means that many still vape in campus proper. And the legalization of the slick, 50-nic JUUL last August only made this worse.

Vaping is cool. Vaping is hip. And vaping restrictions are barely enforced, resulting in hordes of studentswhipping out their juice-box sized vapes and kicking up a cloud that rivals a dust storm at Burning Man.

Too many people think vapes are exempt from the rules due to their overall low profile, and I’ve frankly had enough. Respect my right to clean air within campus, and I’ll respect your right to destroy your body with all the flavours of the rainbow.

And for the love of God, can we at least agree to call the bathroom a no man’s land?