How recent vaping coverage has influenced the USC community

The headlines have caught students’ attention and caused some to curb their usage.

The recent intensive media coverage of vaping and its hazards has caught the attention of USC students, but it’s still too early to tell how much increased awareness will ultimately influence student usage of vaping devices.

California Gov. Gavin Newsom announced Monday a new state-sponsored campaign to raise awareness about the dangers of e-cigarettes, and the Trump administration has been weighing the option of banning e-cigarettes altogether. A string of e-cigarette related illnesses and deaths in the last week have raised alarm across the nation about the safety of products like Juul.

For some students, the recent events have served as a wake-up call.

Jacob De La Hoya, a senior studying real estate development, said he threw his e-cigarette out immediately after hearing the reports, and believes that the usage of e-cigarettes has been going down among his peers.

“Immediately, all my friends were like, ‘Let’s get this out of here. Let’s throw this away, we don’t want to do this’,” he said.

However, De La Hoya added that he thinks quitting e-cigarettes won’t come easily to everyone.

“I think the addiction and the addictive part of nicotine has really set everyone back. Because they’ll throw theirs out and then they’ll see someone with it and they’re like, ‘OK, let me use it or let me try it out’,” he said.

Jon-Patrick Allem, assistant professor of research in preventative medicine at the Keck School of Medicine, who studies the usage and appeal of e-cigarettes, among other subjects, echoed De La Hoya’s comments.

“I think that information isn’t the only thing that drives behavior,” he said. “So I think for some students, knowing that this is an addictive device and knowing that it could cause harm will get [them] to stop. For other students, information alone isn't going to be enough and it's going to require social and environmental influences to help them quit.”

Allem describes nicotine as a “poison for the developing brain.” He said the brain continues to develop until the ages of 25 or 26, and usage of the substance can curb the process.

“I would say that one can only speculate that raising awareness about the potential, addictive properties found in a lot of these e-cigarette devices, should give some students pause as to whether or not they’re going to try these vaping products,” Allem said.

Recent events did give some students pause.

“A few of my friends quit cold turkey, because the media has a lot of influence, people started to get really scared,” said senior Shannon Corsi, who is studying music and business. However, she added that there are still skeptics among the student population.

“I know a lot of other people who were just like, ‘oh no, it’s all fake, you know they’re just trying to scare you',” she said.

Like De La Hoya, Corsi sees the addictive properties of nicotine as an obstacle.

“Vaping is honestly so addictive that even if people quit cold turkey, it’s such a mental addiction, that [students] will be like, ‘oh no, it’s fine.’”

Senior James Barraro, a theatre major, said he believes the recent media coverage of the vaping industry is serving as propaganda for vaping.

“The drama behind it is just going to fuel it,” he said. “I feel like I’ve decreased [my usage] since I’ve been hearing about all of it, but I was just at a place and saw a girl hitting [an e-cigarette].”

Meanwhile, for local businesses selling vaping products, the future may seem bleak. Workers at most declined to comment, but Zain Moosani, salesman at Kalari Vapor, a manufacturer of vaping liquids near campus, expects a decline in the market for vaping, though he said he has not felt the impact just yet.

“Vaping's going to come to an end as well. We never know when, because you can't tell the future,” he said.

Moosani said he does not use vaping products himself.

“It’s not a good thing,” he said. “Keep yourself as healthy as possible.”

Summer Dahlquist-Tookey and Nathan MacKay contributed to this report.