Photo from Silhouette Photo Archives

By: Lauren Olsen

Last January, McMaster University’s president Patrick Deane took a stand and banned all forms of smoking on school grounds, making McMaster Ontario's first 100 per cent tobacco and smoke free campus. This included banning the on-campus use of cigarettes, cigars, hookah, pot and most importantly, the ever-popular vape pens.

The ban on campus was a welcome sight for those opposed to tobacco, however, the ineffectiveness of enforcing this policy rendered the ban as a bland suggestion rather than a legitimate rule.

You can witness this phenomenon simply by walking around campus. You won’t make it far before encountering students vaping in direct violation of the McMaster ‘ban’, with their discretion being non-existent. Students can be found vaping in classrooms, lecture halls, residences and around campus.

Recently, there was an opening of the 180 Smoke Vape Shop in Westdale which will only further support and make accessible the habits of smokers. The store offers everything including e-cigarettes, vape juice, pens and portable vaporizers, and is located just a short walk from McMaster University.  

They are attracting not only smokers who may be trying to quit, but others who lack the proper information about the hazards associated with vaping, and may only be concerned with becoming part of the current trend. They are promoting this product as a commercialized, socially-acceptable activity rather than a helpful addiction quitting strategy for tobacco smokers.

For McMaster students, it’s just a short stroll to a readily-available addiction which is now a booming industry. According to BBC News, the number of vapers has increased rapidly from about seven million in 2011 to 35 million in 2016. The global vaping products market is now estimated to be worth up to $22.6 billion USD.

The rapid growth of the industry is not a victimless development. New products need new users and stores like 180 Smoke Vape Shop will likely be getting their customer base from McMaster.  

Other than perpetuating the ‘look’ and fueling the industry, students are playing with fire and risking addiction. Although e-cigarettes do not contain any tar, carbon monoxide or other chemicals found in tobacco smoke, they still mimic the familiar action of a smoker and can be addictive. What used to be a method to quit is now becoming a method to start, and making smoking acceptable again.

The smoking population who are slowly cutting back their nicotine addiction to quit smoking have made way for the young adults who are peer-pressured by the new “cool” thing to do and, in turn, are becoming dependent on the addictive drug.

Harvard Health Publishing describes the side effects of vaping to include the potential of diabetes, loss of impulse control, impairment of brain development and elevated heart rate and blood pressure. Thus, the antidote is quickly becoming the poison.

I am not advocating that McMaster shutdown 180 Smoke Vape Shop, or campaign to influence public policy. Rather, the university should enforce the very rule they promised in early 2018, in order to make McMaster a safer environment and community.

Creating a ban was a novel idea, but not following is more than just lazy enforcement — it is potentially dangerous to student health.

More and more youth will be exposed and persuaded to try vaping, which easily perpetuates an addiction whose lasting health implications are still being determined. Moreover, the campus itself is not an inviting space with smoke billowing from its hallways and paths. It’s time to inhale the future and start enforcing the smoking ban on campus.

 

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I would like to preface this by saying I have never smoked. Blame the contract six-year-old Sabrina signed in purple crayon or the hour-long lectures my mother gave about the “dangers of drugs” but to this day, I’ve never had the desire to smoke, cigarettes or marijuana. I actually dislike the smell of smoke, especially that of cannabis, and so I can understand the motivation behind campus smoking bans. And yet, I still think they’re wrong.

If the federal government can legalize cannabis use and possession for consenting adults, then what right does McMaster or any university have to impose their own notions of health onto their students? Especially amidst the lack of evidence concerning the risks and therapeutic benefits of cannabis, it screams arrogant paternalism for a university to infringe upon our autonomy like this. Whether I chose to smoke or not should be my decision, irrespective of the institution that I pay into.

Welcome to our Tobacco and Smoke Free campus: https://t.co/UaF8ukbles pic.twitter.com/jcxhj38zSc

— McMaster University (@McMasterU) 4 January 2018

McMaster prides itself on being the first Ontario campus to go 100 per cent tobacco and smoke-free. So far, the rules have been fairly simple. If you are caught smoking on campus grounds, you get a warning, and maybe a fine too. The ban has not stopped students from smoking, however. It has only stopped them from smoking in well-lit, safe areas.

And that’s the kicker. Prohibition has never worked. If someone intends to use a substance, they’re going to use it whether you ban it or not. The government realizes this. They realize this so much, in fact, that they have legalized — and will soon profit from — cannabis. If universities were smart, they would realize this too.

I am not saying that students should be encouraged to attend classes high or to smoke during lectures. But the rules need to be revisited and revised to be more realistic and definitely more comprehensive. Students will smoke. If the university truly cared about their students, they’d help these students smoke in a safe way.

Specialized university smoking policies are unnecessary. Smoking in Canada is already banned in indoor public spaces and within nine meters from the entrance of social service institutions, including universities. If these rules are sufficient outside of the university bubble, there’s no reason they can’t be sufficient within it.

Brock University has recently updated their smoking and vaping policy to address the use of cannabis on campus; specifically banning smoking cannabis, banning the production of any cannabis edibles, and implementing scent-free cannabis storage rules. In addition to these policy updates, Brock is proposing to create a new “Fit for Work Standard” which could potentially include the monitoring of substances including cannabis to judge the impairment of their employees.

This is where my main concern lies. Regulation of a substance is a slippery slope. It’s no question that marginalized communities are disproportionately profiled and stand a greater risk of being unfairly policed and mistreated. I fear that what may start as well-intentioned smoking bans could quickly lead to prejudiced behaviour against vulnerable groups on campus.

It’s important to remember that there are many social determinants of cannabis use, and its misuse. Last week, I attended a roundtable on the impact of cannabis legalization which was held by the Michael G. DeGroote Centre for Medicinal Cannabis Research. One of the attendees, a representative from the Canadian Mental Health Association, stressed that we must not tread into the medical reductionism of cannabis. The harms that are associated to cannabis are tied to a myriad of social issues that we must address first. Poverty, housing instability, food insecurity and racism are all factors that contribute towards cannabis use. There are also those who use cannabis as a treatment for an uncountable number of diseases and disorders including insomnia, anxiety and depression.

How can we then justify a ban against cannabis? This would essentially be a ban against its users, many of whom are the vulnerable and disenfranchised. It’s unclear what McMaster plans to do. What is clear is that when creating policies like smoking bans, it is the responsibility of the university, which claims to care about its students, to consult the people who will be impacted.

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By Drew Simpson

As of Oct. 17, Canadians 19 or older, including the majority of McMaster students, will be able to legally possess up to 30 grams of cannabis and purchase weed from the Ontario Cannabis Store and regulated retailers. However, despite the update in federal legislation, McMaster is staying firmly committed to its smoking ban.

As defined by McMaster’s “Tobacco & Smoke-Free University Policy,” smoking includes “inhaling, exhaling, burning, or carrying any cigar, cigarette pipe or any other lighted or heated tobacco or plant product… including hookahs and cannabis whether natural or synthetic, in any manner or in any form.”

When it comes to students’ ability to smoke in their off-campus houses, landlords have the authority to permit or disallow cannabis. However, landlords cannot limit any other forms of cannabis consumption.

Students living in residence at the university have to sign the Residence Act. Surprisingly, the 2018-2019 Residence Act outlines restrictions on alcohol consumption and possession in residences, but does not mention cannabis at all. Despite this, Sean Van Koughnett, the dean of students at McMaster, has referred to those same alcohol consumption rules as a framework for regulating cannabis within residences.

Specifically, Van Koughnett says that students will be allowed to possess cannabis in residences and on campus as long as what they carry adheres to specific amounts specified in legislation. The specific amount stipulated in the cannabis act is up to 30 grams. It appears that the rules for cannabis consumption in residence will follow those for alcohol consumption.

Regarding edible possession, universities like the University of Toronto limit edible and oil consumption to the privacy of one’s residence room. However, Andrea Farquhar, assistant vice-president of McMaster communication and public affairs, speaks of potentially only allowing manufacturer labelled edibles and oils, with the goal being to limit mixing.

According to Farquhar, if cannabis is consumed straight from the container it was sold in, it must be labelled by the manufacturer. Consuming cannabis oil from any unlabelled container is not permitted. For instance, one cannot leave unlabelled edibles in a residence refrigerator.

Farquhar understands how difficult it is to enforce rules like this, but still aims to make the expectation known.

Edibles will not be sold by regulated stores until July 2019, however, giving McMaster and other universities much more time to clarify their rules regarding edible cannabis.

Moreover, the Cannabis Act allows possession but limits the transportation of cannabis. In particular, cannabis cannot be readily available to any person within a vehicle. This section fits neatly into McMaster’s rules as the university’s policy also bans smoking, including cannabis, within vehicles on McMaster property.

A concern that the university’s policy fails to address is growing cannabis. Nevertheless, it is clear that Canadian universities are largely seeking to prevent students from growing cannabis in residences. Odour is the most popular argument backing this decision.

Currently, McMaster’s smoke-free policy also does not address research-related smoking. While the Cannabis Act allows research as an exception to smoke-free policies, McMaster has never addressed research as an exception to its rules.

After Oct. 17, as long as students are over 19, purchase cannabis from regulated stores and consume it privately, they are within the law. However, key questions remain unanswered and some McMaster rules may need fresh examination amid legalization.

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[spacer height="20px"]In September 2017, McMaster released a statement saying it will attempt to ban smoking on campus that following January, establishing itself as “Ontario’s first 100 per cent tobacco and smoke-free campus.”

The ban was to take effect in January 2018. In its initial months, anyone smoking on campus was to be given a verbal warning and a reminder of McMaster’s smoking cessation policies. Eventually, enforcement was set to include follow-ups by McMaster Security Services through Human Resources, the Provost or Student Affairs, or, the smoker was to be issued a university violation notice.  

Currently in the latter half of these punitive measures, with some reporting to have received tickets for smoking on campus, it’s safe to say that the smoking ban is in full effect. This means that smokers will continue to smoke, but will have to find places off campus that work.

Sure, on paper this smoking ban looks good. It could make campus a bit healthier, it could prevent excessive second-hand smoke and, if given the proper resources, it could help more students, staff and faculty to quit smoking.

A campus-wide ban doesn’t help smokers in a meaningful way. Instead, it just means that they will have to walk off campus. The reality is that the smoking ban is leaving those who smoke in conditions that are unsafe and inaccessible.

McMaster has a huge campus safe, for the most part, the areas that are considered to be off-campus are poorly lit, nearly ten minutes away from public property and are inaccessible in any kind of inclement weather. Overall, the smoking ban imposes safety concerns to those who light up.

This begs the question as to whether the university genuinely cares about any student, staff or faculty who doesn’t fit into its idea of what health and wellness should look like. There’s no doubt that smoking is unhealthy, but by forcing smokers to take their habit off-campus, the university makes it clear that those with addiction aren’t welcome here.

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By: Ileena Ke

Jan. 25 marked McMaster’s launch event of the new smoke-free policy. It took place in the McMaster University Student Centre, taking up the atrium with tables laden with free hot chocolate, marshmallows, whipped cream and chocolate shavings.

According to McMaster, the purpose of the smoke-free policy is meant to promote a healthier campus to fulfill its obligations to the Okanagan Charter, a charter meant to promote healthier living signed by multiple universities.

This policy disallows any form of an oral smoking device, such as tobacco products, cannabis use and electronic smoking devices. As for smudging, McMaster allows an exemption through request only. In this case, it is meant to protect McMaster from second-hand smoke. The policy will not be enforced immediately.

“For the first year, anyone found on campus will be given an information card that outlines the new designation and provides details on the supports available. Signs have been installed informing the community of the new tobacco and smoke-free campus,” said Gord Arbeau, McMaster’s director of communications.

“They have created this atmosphere where people who don’t do these things — their needs — are considered more important.”

Sarah Wahab
Vice president
CUPE 3906

The policy applies to anyone on McMaster premises. Community members are encouraged to approach those who are smoking and to inform them of the new policy.

“The tobacco and smoke-free campus designation is a natural next step that is aligned with [advancing wellbeing]… Ontario’s hospitals and many municipal parks and outdoor venues are already 100 percent tobacco and smoke-free and McMaster is pleased to take a leadership role,” Arbeau stated.

Sarah Wahab, vice president of CUPE 3906 and PhD candidate in the department of English and Cultural Studies, is not convinced.

Wahab states that the policy targets individuals, particularly those dealing with an addiction, by implying smokers are unhealthier and that they are unwanted on campus.

Wahab argues that the policy is discriminatory due to the how the policy generates an atmosphere where smokers feel targeted amongst the university population. She also stated that the act of forcing people off campus to smoke makes them more visible, which exposes them to assault.

“They have created this atmosphere where people who don’t do these things — their needs — are considered more important.” Wahab said. She believes that the division this policy has brought onto the community, dividing smokers and non-smokers, is dangerous for it labels a group’s presence as intolerable.

Wahab also argues this unfairly targets medical cannabis users. Wahab said that while the university has suggested other methods of taking cannabis, smoking is the more effective way of treatment. Wahab believes that the university does not have a right to tell someone when and how to take their medicine.

Wahab also argues that it is discriminatory to require permission to smudge on campus, and that Indigenous communities should be allowed to do so without the blessing of the university.

“I think [non-smokers] should... have some compassion for people who are still working through [quitting] if they’re choosing to. If they’re not, you also have to respect people’s decisions to do what they want with their bodies.” Wahab said. “If a policy like this goes ahead, I’m just curious to see what other things they can stop us from doing on campus.”

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Anyone who was on campus around 4 p.m. on Oct. 6 likely remembers the pro medical marijuana protest, which occurred in front of Mills Plaza, where one man protested McMaster’s looming smoking ban, arguing that its policy against medical marijuana ignored its health benefits.

The man in question was Christopher Lawson, a local activist known within the community for his work promoting medical marijuana. He does not have any official affiliation with the university. The protest centered on McMaster’s proposed smoke-free campus initiative set to begin on Jan. 1, 2018, at which time smoking of any kind will be banned from campus grounds.

Marijuana remains a point of interest for McMaster, from the administration to the student union to researchers all taking a unique stance.

Protest on campus regarding the smoking ban and its effects on medical marijuana users. pic.twitter.com/damw0JSKov

— The Silhouette (@theSilhouette) October 6, 2017

In its current state, McMaster’s smoking ban will also include a ban on the use of medical marijuana on campus. This ban is a part of a larger effort to improve public health on university campuses, highlighted through Okanagan Charter.

In addition, McMaster administration also received a human rights complaint earlier this year after excluding a graduate student from attending an overseas trip due to her use of medical marijuana.

Halima Hatimy was meant to take an overseas trip to Ghana as a part of her ongoing research on global health in Feb., but was stopped by the university a day before she was meant to leave.

The university felt she did not fully understand the risk associated with taking medical marijuana to Ghana. Hatimy has since filed a human rights complaint against the university.

While the administration takes hard line with marijuana use, the McMaster Students Union has a softer approach toward the subject.

During the Sept. 24 MSU Student Representative Assembly meeting, the MSU SRA voted to adopt a motion cautioning the university’s smoking ban, arguing that it currently does not recognize that marginalized groups are disproportionately affected by addiction and substance abuse.

The SRA motion argued that the university ought to prioritize student safety and accessibility before considering implementation of the ban.

With this in mind, the SRA has not taken an official stance on marijuana itself, but rather a more general stance concerning smoking.

Meanwhile, research on campus is very much in favor of decriminalization and use of the substance. Prof. Michael DeVillaer, under the Peter Boris Centre for Addictions Research, recently argued for the decriminalization of minor cannabis-related offenses and focusing the legalization discussion around public health.

“The Canadian government should continue to work slowly and methodically towards the legalization of cannabis for recreational purposes, with a priority on the protection of public health and safety over revenue,” read a part of the policy analysis available on the PBCAR’s website.

The policy analysis also calls for the establishment of a not-for-profit marijuana authority for all recreational use meant only to address the current demand without actively promoting the substance. For example, the policy analysis would ban product innovation such as edible forms of marijuana.

Overall, the policy analysis is in favor of the decriminalization and use of marijuana, so long as it is regulated through a public health lenses.

While the protest on Oct. 6 remains a foggy memory overridden by the reading week break, McMaster’s multiple sectors continue to have contrasting opinions over marijuana use and its role in our lives.

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By: Anonymous Contributor

No one wants to be unhealthy. No one wants their health to be negatively affected by other people’s actions.

I think we can all agree on these assertions. But is a full-stop, McMaster-wide smoking ban going to make us healthier? Is it really going to make Marauders “breathe easy”? This ban will not work.

I am a McMaster student and I smoke. I smoke on campus. I stay away from doors, windows, air intakes and fellow students when I smoke.

I don’t exhale if someone passes by.

I put my cigarette butts in the proper boxes, which are becoming harder to find on campus.

You won’t find me next to the student centre doors blowing smoke in your face.

Nor will you find me fogging up the bus stop and choking everyone else out. I don’t want my unhealthy choice to affect you.

I don’t want to be unhealthy either. I don’t think smoking is cool, and I’m well aware of the negative effects cigarette smoking has and will have on my health.

Smoking at school has helped me cope with overwhelming anxiety/panic attacks and OCD, allowing me to attend classes and make it to my third year without relying on a constant supply of Xanax for support.

I certainly don’t need the school or its student groups to explain to me, an adult, that smoking is bad.

I certainly don’t need your support groups. If I were interested, I’d join myself. But I am not.

McMaster, for all of its supposed efforts to address mental health issues, seems all too eager to ignore a major reason that people, including myself, take up smoking: my mental illness.

Smoking at school has helped me cope with overwhelming anxiety/panic attacks and OCD, allowing me to attend classes and make it to my third year without relying on a constant supply of Xanax for support.

Those who don’t suffer from mental illness may not understand, but the relief of knowing that in between classes you can recoup, prepare yourself and have something on hand that isn’t mind altering, is truly great.

It is much more difficult and embarrassing to roll out a yoga mat, play with a stress ball, practice meditative breathing, or whatever other suggestion you may have.

Now, if I need a cigarette, I’ll leave campus property.

That’s fine supposing there is a garbage bin nearby so I don’t have to litter and supposing that there aren’t too many people on the same sidewalk or residential street as me.

This also makes it difficult for me to be able to smoke in between classes with the added stress of worrying if I will be able to make it back to campus on time.

I’m sure to most, the expected response to this ban is “too bad, so sad”.

But I just want to live my life and attend my classes without further dirty looks and scoffs for my choice to smoke and my choice of stress relief.

Instead of guilting those who smoke and isolating them, why not enforce the rules that we already have in place?

You’ll find that most, like me, do our best to follow the rules in place.

For those who don’t it’s not a smoking issue, it’s a character issue. Have designated smoking areas.

Actually, enforce ban areas. Don’t demonize and make people feel unwelcome on their campus just because they smoke for reasons you choose not to understand.

By: Gabi Herman

In a highly publicized message last week, McMaster University announced that they would ban all smoking on campus starting in January. This includes cigarettes, cigars, marijuana and e-cigs. Many in the campus community have lauded McMaster’s health-promoting decisions, but others are concerned about feasibility and accessibility.

The new policy is in the spirit of the Okanagan Charter, an agreement McMaster signed that calls on universities to “embed health into all aspects of campus cultures.”

Tobacco use and exposure to second-hand smoke have well-established links with heart disease, stroke, cancer and respiratory distress. McMaster hopes this move will help foster a campus community that makes healthy decisions. The university will provide support to those quitting, with resources and sessions available to help students, staff, and faculty quit smoking.

McMaster is Ontario’s first campus to ban smoking, and the responses of the media and Ontario’s post-secondary community have been largely positive. The, University of Toronto responded to McMaster’s smoking ban by announcing their plan to institute a smoking ban too, according to the Varsity. Across Canada, smoking bans already exist at 14 campuses, mostly on the east coast. Reportedly, the bans there have been mostly successful.

A primary concern with the policy is whether enforcement is feasible. Right now, smoking is banned within nine metres of an entrance and inside all buildings. However, smoking near building entrances is extremely common, and the policy seems to go unenforced. Since the current policy is frequently broken, a stricter policy is very ambitious. Enforcement of the new smoking ban will be phased in over the next year, beginning with gentle reminders of McMaster’s smoking cessation policies.

McMaster’s size and location make it especially difficult to leave campus to smoke; the surrounding areas have few places to sit and rest, and many parts of campus are over ten minutes away from public property. This has the potential to impact employees who make use of short breaks to smoke.

According to Graham Baker, president of CUPE 3906, workers’ unions on campus were not consulted during the policy’s development, although they were told over the summer. Employers are not allowed to punish employees for breaking the smoking policy, but are not obligated to give employees extra break time to go off campus and smoke. McMaster has also stated it has worked to address concerns that smokers will crowd the sidewalks in surrounding neighbourhoods, but has not provided specifics.

In the announcement, the university wrote that it paid attention to the needs of Indigenous students, whose use of traditional and sacred medicines may conflict with the policy. Indigenous students can receive exemptions upon request.

Piers Kreps, co-president of the Cooperative of Indigenous Studies Students and Alumni said that CISSA was not consulted in the planning of the smoking ban, or given warning about the policy. Exemptions upon request could present a problem.

“It’s not like we plan when we’re going to smudge or burn tobacco,” said Kreps. However, Kreps was cautiously optimistic.

“I think this provides the university with a wonderful opportunity to promote and educate [students and staff about] the Indigenous position here,” he said.

Other accessibility concerns have been raised. Alex Wilson, Student Representative Assembly member (Science), put forward a motion at the SRA meeting on Sunday night.

“Marginalized groups are disproportionately affected by addiction and substance use due to social factors,” read the motion. The motion passed, so the MSU’s official position now advises against moving towards a smoke free campus without considering other factors such as safety and accessibility.

Ryan Deshpande, McMaster Students Union vice president (Education), was consulted by McMaster University, and reached out to the SRA for input. “The policy has not been finalized yet, and review is still ongoing,” said Deshpande.

For further clarity, student and staff groups will have to wait until policy finalization in the new year.

On Monday Sept. 18, McMaster University announced that we will become a smoke-fee school. This is an incredible progression for the university in a number of ways, beyond the fact that McMaster will become a healthier campus for everyone.

According to the McMaster Daily News, McMaster will be ending the use of tobacco and any other smoking devices inside, outside and around campus.

This also includes the Ron Joyce Centre in Burlington and any other McMaster owned facilities.

By declaring the campus to become a tobacco and smoke free campus, McMaster is promoting the health and wellness of not only students, but McMaster faculty, staff and even guests.

This is an initiative that is meant to improve the daily lives and health of the McMaster community by ensuring that no one on campus will be exposed to second hand smoke. For a person who is allergic to smoke and nearly chokes at every encounter with it, this initiative will absolutely improve my McMaster experience.

Seeing as McMaster is recognized globally for being an institute that is committed to health advancements and student well being that is rising in global rankings, this will only increase our rankings as an internationally well-renowned institute.

One concern that arises with applying this new policy is that adjusting to such a change for those who do smoke might not be easily transitional.

However, the university has already anticipated possible responses to the change, and is planning accordingly.

“This change will have different implications for the diverse communities across our campus.”

 

Ryan Deshpande
Vice president (Education)
McMaster Students Union

To prepare for the change on campus, McMaster has claimed that there will be a comprehensive program available that will help the McMaster community adapt.

Another concern is maintaining respect for diverse groups who may practice the use of smoke and tobacco for cultural reasons.

Ryan Deshpande, vice president (Education), stated, “This change will have different implications for the diverse communities across our campus.”

As we all manage this transition, it is important that the University’s resources cater to the cultural and mental wellbeing of these communities, and that everyone is aware of these supports throughout this process,” he added.

In response to this concern, the university claims that it recognizes and understands that certain Indigenous cultures may have traditional and sacred needs for the use of tobacco for medicinal purposes, and assures that in certain cases, there can be exemptions granted to the policy if need be.

The university assures those concerned about the implementation and regulation of this change that it will not be an abrupt one.

The enforcement is meant to be phased into implementation for the first few months of the change.

In areas near campus but not on campus, the university claims that they will try to regulate the number of people who smoke in neighbouring residential streets and sidewalks so that there isn’t an increase in smoking there are a result.

In terms of regulation, if someone is violating the policy within the adjustment period, they’ll just be asked not to use the smoke or tobacco and directed to a cessation program.

The implementation and execution of a smoke free campus is one that will bring positive community response and global recognition that all students are able to benefit from.

Beyond the efforts that the university is taking with respect to our health and well being, this change will be an active stance in helping to improve the campus environment as well.

This change is something that we as McMaster students should be proud to be a part of moving into the future of the university.

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By: Sasha Dhesi

I went back to my hometown a few weeks ago and found myself tickled pink by the presence of a vape memorabilia shop right next to my mother’s favourite health store, something that struck me to be a bit antithetical. In the past few months, it seems that vaping has become ubiquitous: it’s hard to go to any sort of social event without running into a bunch of fuccbois vaping, or go through a convenience store without eyeing the display case full of flavoured e-cigarettes aimed at the younger crowds. And this sudden obsession with a treatment for cigarette smokers by non-smokers is fascinating to anyone who’s on the outside looking in, while coughing.

So what is vaping exactly? It turns out that the general science behind it is pretty simple. A super heated coil called an atomizer heats up a fluid with nicotine and turns it into a vapour that users inhale, making it somewhat analogous to smoking. However, it’s not as harmful as actual cigarettes since it doesn’t produce as heavy of smoke laced with harmful chemicals and users don’t tend to inhale as deeply. It does still contain nicotine, which can damage someone’s cardiovascular health and impair fetal development, but alone it is not a carcinogen.

So what does it mean for the users? Is it a good alternative for those who want to smoke? Is it a “gateway” to smoking? These questions have plagued researchers for a while now.

As someone who grew up in a household full of smokers, trust me when I say that anything, and I mean anything, that could cause someone to start smoking cigarettes is harmful. It’s difficult for young people to fully comprehend the long-term effects of smoking, but as someone who has been in a slew of hospital rooms caused by those little cancer sticks, it’s not worth any rush. At this point though, we all know this and I’m most likely preaching to the choir.

That’s not to say that there aren’t good things about vaping. Vaping is a much less intrusive and safer method of using nicotine compared to its traditional counterpart. The vapour is mostly water, and while it remains somewhat intrusive visually speaking, I would still take wading through some water vapour over inhaling God knows how many carcinogens through second-hand smoke.

But it’s hard to deny the connection between vaping and smoking. Although some researchers have argued that it is not a gateway to smoking, citing the number of smokers who turn to vaping to quit smoking, becoming addicted to nicotine does pose the risk of eventually becoming hooked on cigarettes. It doesn’t help that companies now market towards younger demographics with flavoured, colourful vape sticks next to the candy section in local gas stations. Moreover, it’s not as if nicotine is free of harmful effects, and to market anything to say the contrary is hurting the community. But if people are going to use nicotine anyway, why stop this inoffensive method?

Given how strongly linked vaping is to smoking, there are interesting implications for vaping in public. Currently you can vape anywhere, but due to its physical ressamblance to smoking, many restaurants, offices and the like ban its use. With no legal basis are these policies acceptable?

Ultimately, it’s too early to make a statement on whether or not vaping is fine and we, as a society, just have to wait and see if people en masse drop dead because of this one fad. Vaping is a becoming a part of our mainstream culture, whether we like it or not. While it’s undeniably complicated, I would still urge those who are interested in it to forgo it. With that said, if you’re going to use nicotine, why not use this unobtrusive method? There’s so much back-and-forth on vaping, that it almost feels futile to even try to establish an opinion. Just do you what you want and try not to die.

Photo Credit: ecigclick

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