Student smokers wary of E-cigarette alternatives

E-cigarettes have been branded as a safer alternative to smoking, but many students at SAIT and the U of C, remain unconvinced.

Cloud Creation: Deklin Barber, left, and Ben Stevens take a break from class to vape on SAIT campus in Calgary on Thursday, Feb. 16, 2017. Barber and Stevens were both in their first year of New Media Production and Design. (Photo by Chelsey Harms/The Press)

Calgary’s post-secondary students remain unconvinced that vaping is a safer alternative to smoking.

Vaping has grown in popularity among some young people over the last few years with the rise of companies like Juul, Logic, and Vype.

But an unofficial survey conducted by The Press, which polled 25 student smokers at random, showed that 64 per cent of them say they would never try vaping.

“I don’t believe it’s any better for you,” said Buzz Van Steinburg, who studies power engineering technology at SAIT.

Van Steinburg said he has heard people have gotten sick from vaping, and is uncomfortable with the potential side effects.

“At least when I smoke I know I’ve got 50 years, I don’t really feel like being a guinea pig,” he said.

More than a third of the students surveyed said they would not try vaping for health-related reasons.

They were also concerned with the lack of information available on e-cigarettes.

A few of the participants who said they wouldn’t swap smoke for vapour had actually tried vaping but said it made them cough more often.

Braden Qiu, a student in the education faculty at the U of C, said he would wake up with coughing fits in the morning after he switched to a Vype e-cigarette.

Qiu would wake up with phlegm in his throat and lungs, which led to him throw up a few times.

“I gave up on it pretty quick after that,” he said.

According to the Government of Canada’s website, there have been 16 cases of vaping-associated illnesses reported to the Public Health Agency of Canada, as of Jan. 14. One of those cases was in Alberta.

No deaths linked to vaping have been reported in Canada.

The bulk of the people who said they wouldn’t switch to vaping said that it didn’t look nice aesthetically.

The people who listed the ‘look’ of smoking as the main reason they wouldn’t switch made up 50 per cent of the smokers questioned.

Maddie Fisher, who is in Indigenous studies at the U of C, said that smoking looks more normalized, mature, and inconspicuous than vaping.

“Cigarettes look classy,” said Fisher, who mostly smokes on the weekends.

“It might be because I’m in love with the show Mad Men where they smoke all the time, but honestly it’s not like you would have ever caught James Dean smoking a vape,” she said.

My nicotine addiction is honestly higher now than it was before. – Levi Madge

Levi Madge, a SAIT student in automotive service technologies, said vaping helped him quit cigarettes, and he’s grateful for it.

Madge said he wanted to quit smoking for a while, so once Juul became a “normal thing” he bought one and hasn’t looked back.

He said even though he’s happy he’s not smoking anymore, his concern has now shifted to his vaping habit.

Madge said the ability to vape inside without any consequences has allowed him to do it more often.

“My nicotine addiction is honestly higher now than it was before,” he said.

Vaping related illnesses have been much more prevalent in the U.S., with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reporting 2,668 hospitalized cases and 60 deaths as of Jan. 14.