As of Tuesday, September 24th, all vaping products were banned in the state of Massachusetts. Governor Charlie Baker determined that what this state needed to get people unhooked from these addictive substances was a four-month break, ordering that all vape and vape-related products be pulled from shelves until January 25th, 2019. In this time officials hope people will remain clean and move on, though there are some concerns regarding the ban. Many small vape shops have had to close completely due to the ban on their product, and those that decide to stay open after a warning will receive a 100$/day fine from the state. The shutting down of these shops has led to an increase in the unemployment of citizens, and growing concern regarding what the people addicted to the now-banned products will turn to. There are legal substances, like cigarettes, that have known negative effects that would take the place of a Juul or vape, as well as illegal alternatives. People have begun smuggling things in from out of state and buying pods and carts from unofficial and unsafe sources, potentially receiving something laced or otherwise unsafe.
The group most intensely affected by the vaping epidemic are teenagers. When asked about the vaping ban, high school teacher Zachary Gill says he is worried about his students. He is aware of some of his students using these products and knows they are unsafe. “There is just so much we don’t know about [vapes],” Gill stated. He also acknowledged that these flavored products were geared towards a younger demographic than the companies producing them would like to admit. “There is just no way a mature adult could care about raspberry or mango-flavored nicotine.”
Another teacher dealing closely with addicted students is Stacey Yarnall, a Monomoy Health teacher who is running the school rehab program. She is in full support of the vaping ban, stating that “In my years of living, even with cigarettes about, this is the first time anyone has actually banned something… I think it’s great, and will send a message to kids who have thought of vaping or thought it wasn’t harmful.” Yarnall discusses vaping and the common misconceptions surrounding the use of these products. She wants her students to understand that these products are not, in fact, safer than smoking; we just don’t have the same information on the effects of vaping that we do on cigarettes and other forms of smoking. Yarnall sees the ban as a solid first step towards a world where teens aren’t plagued by this addiction, though she knows there are loopholes kids can find. “There really isn’t any way to police the internet,” she stated. “There is always going to be some way a kid can get [vaping products].” She is hoping that some time down the road, officials will figure out a screening system for these online purchases, but until then, the responsibility lies on people closer to the issue. Yarnall is also concerned about addicted teenagers seeking out other forms of nicotine, like cigarettes, which have known risks attached to them.
Lisa Abboud, medical professional and mother of two teenagers at Monomoy, is in full support of the ban. She is not concerned about the introduction of more dangerous substances being introduced to replace vaping products and sees nothing negative coming out of this temporary ban. “I think that big tobacco companies have too much power, Jull is owned by Marlboro, and it targets our youth with colors, appealing flavors,” Lisa Abboud stated. She also believes the vaping epidemic will be just as prevalent when the ban is lifted. Marc Abboud, Lisa Abboud’s husband, an emergency responder, has some conflicting opinions with those of his wife. He has dealt with six vaping-related incidents since the declared epidemic, four of whom were teenagers. He feels the ban could lead to the use of more dangerous products. “[the ban will drive] users to seek products out on the black market, which will be unsafe.” He also believes that vape usage will decrease following the ban.
A point of view rarely represented in the media is that of an actual teen vaper. The one interviewed for the purpose of this article has quit Juuling as of this past July. They said they used Juul “because people I was hanging out with were doing it.” They share the concern of many that some of their friends may use unsafe substitutions for the now-banned products. “I have heard horror stories,” they shared, “people have tried to refill pods with sketchy stuff and done serious damage to their brain.” The teen vaper would like to encourage peers struggling with addiction to break away from the habit, saying, “It doesn’t make you cooler, it just puts you at risk.”
If you would like to get help with a vaping habit or addiction or are just looking for more information on the issue, you would speak to Ms. Yarnall about any questions, and perhaps join Project Outreach, a program at Monomoy to help vapers quit.