Independent Student Newspaper of UW Oshkosh Campuses

The Advance-Titan

Independent Student Newspaper of UW Oshkosh Campuses

The Advance-Titan

Independent Student Newspaper of UW Oshkosh Campuses

The Advance-Titan

Drop your vape and pick up yourself

Therapeutic or therapy-inducing?
Michael Buckner / The Advance Titan - According to the NIH, 24% of college students are e-cigarette
users, and the prevalence of cardiovascular disease symptoms is
doubled in comparison to non-users
Michael Buckner / The Advance Titan – According to the NIH, 24% of college students are e-cigarette users, and the prevalence of cardiovascular disease symptoms is doubled in comparison to non-users

Created and advertised originally to “help” those addicted to cigarettes, vapes came out on the scene in 2003 as a “healthy” alternative to smoking and have gotten increasingly popular since then. This is seen especially in recent years as vape companies are appealing to young adults more and more. 

Of course, while vaping may help you quit smoking cigarettes, you’re really just trading one  addiction for another; not to mention a more intense and harder-to-kick one. In comparison to cigarettes, vapes are tastier, more accessible, better smelling, rechargeable, and can be hit virtually anywhere because of the smoke-less vapor. Vape companies go out of their way to make disposable vapes as colorful and cool-looking as they can. Additionally, I’ve even seen some vapes with screens on them that have cute little icons that dance or spin whenever you take a hit so you can get even more of that psychological reward from hitting it. 

Don’t be fooled. All of this is specifically designed to be addictive, even more so than cigarettes.

According to the National Institute of Health, of 3,754 college students in their 2018 study, 55.2% had used vapes before, 23.2% of which were daily users. With the stress, anxiety and depression that can come with being a college student, it’s no wonder almost a third of college students vape in search of a coping mechanism. The buzz they get from nicotine provides somewhat of an escape from reality. Moreover, with its popularity in recent years, vaping has become much more socially accepted—with users and vape stores at almost every corner, non-vapers may be encouraged to try it. You can’t even go to a party or bar without seeing somebody hit a vape. 

Besides the obvious and scary physical health risks of vaping such as damage to your lungs, immune system, and your (still developing) brain, your vape isn’t helping you de-stress as much as you think it is. In fact, it’s likely doing the opposite. According to the Truth Initiative, an anti-smoking organization, vaping can actually worsen symptoms of anxiety, depression and even ADHD. So, yes, while hitting your vape may relieve stress in the moment, what you’re really doing is trading short-term stress relief for long-term anxiety. 

As college students, we are especially targeted and fed the lie that vaping can be a viable coping mechanism with our busy schedules, seemingly boundless responsibilities, and the stress and anxiety that comes with being a student.

I know I’m starting to sound like your mom or those annoying quitting ads you always skip, but it’s much more than statistics that’s motivating me. I can throw as many numbers and statistics as I want, but I have more than that. I have firsthand experience. 

I started vaping my freshman year of college in search of an escape from the anxiety that comes with being a college student. I ignored all of those anti-vaping ads, too, even hitting my vape to them in what I thought was humor and retaliation. Now, I wish more than anything that I would’ve listened. I wish I would have thought twice before buying my first vape at Marley’s, and I wish I had known the magnitude this decision would have on me. The normality of vaping is what made me not even think twice. I thought that if everyone else was doing it, surely I’d be okay. The idea that vaping is much better than smoking cigarettes convinced me that I was making a responsible decision. 

I was so naive for thinking that the thing that helps me deal with my stress couldn’t possibly be causing me anxiety. In truth, it was just happening so slowly I couldn’t tell. It crept up on me. After a year of consistent and daily vaping, I experienced one of my first panic attacks. Shortly after, I was put on anxiety meds to help manage my worsening social anxiety and ADHD. At the time, I just chalked it up to a tumultuous freshman year. 

After almost three years, it got to the point where the only time I didn’t feel anxiety was when I was hitting it. I couldn’t breathe as deeply, couldn’t sing as well, couldn’t run or dance or even walk up three flights of stairs without feeling winded or having chest pains. It wasn’t just physically killing me, it was also taking away all the life I had. 

I never thought I would be strong enough to quit, but one day it got so bad that the anxiety I was feeling on a daily basis from my vape was worse than the anxiety of letting go of this comfort and dealing with the withdrawals. Finally, I put it all in a plastic bag and threw it into the dumpster. It wasn’t easy, but I can confidently say that dealing with withdrawals was a small price to pay for getting my life back. 

While I am proud of myself for finally quitting, I wish it had never gotten to that point in the first place. I sincerely don’t wish the anxiety, enslavement, fatigue and heaviness on even my worst enemies. That’s why I want to write about this. 

Although the anti-smoking ads that Truth Initiative and others put out do have a lot of great information and resources, they didn’t necessarily motivate me to quit personally. The resources on their website and the text notifications I receive from them have been vital in dealing with withdrawal and temptation post-quitting, but I think a raw testimony can be a helpful tool.

Learn from my mistakes. If you’re thinking about starting, don’t; if you’re thinking about quitting, do it. If you’re thinking, “that won’t happen to me,” stop it. Yes it will, and it only gets harder the longer you wait. 

Even just starting small by leaving your vape at home when you go to classes or work can help you wean off the drug and prepare you for withdrawal. Things like drinking soda from a straw, chewing gum, or sucking on lollipops can help mimic the oral fixation of vaping, and keeping an object like a lip oil or a highlighter in your pocket can also help mimic the presence of a vape. 

Quitting vaping is a mental battle as well, so I recommend keeping a list of reasons why you want to quit to look back on when you feel that urge and temptation. Truth Initiative also has a sleuth of helpful resources on their website such as other people’s testimonies, the benefits of quitting, a free text sign-up that sends advice and motivation straight to your phone and more.

Once you’ve quit and have found the best way to deal with your withdrawals, all that’s left is to find another coping mechanism to replace vaping. This can be anything — running, breathwork, listening to music, praying, meditating, exercising, self-care or even just screaming into your pillow. All of these things release dopamine into your brain, the same hormone that is released when you hit your vape. What’s better? These things are naturally occurring, so you’re not manipulating your natural dopamine levels, not to mention they don’t cost a dime. 

Granted, it will get worse before it gets better. The first few days feel similar to the flu, with symptoms like the shakes, fatigue, nausea and anxiety, nothing you haven’t done before. Besides, those first few days are such a small price to pay for a lifetime of freedom from this harmful drug. 

 Take it from me, somebody who thought it was impossible to quit. It isn’t. I know it can be daunting, but just take it one day at a time. The first few days were the toughest, but after just three days I started to feel better. I felt more energized, less anxious, more focused, and overall happier. So, put down your vape, and pick yourself up. College is hard enough without dealing with addiction.



Leave a Comment
More to Discover

Comments (0)

All The Advance-Titan Picks Reader Picks Sort: Newest