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More common than coffee: We need to rethink vaping normalcy in Oxford

There are 17 vape and smoke shops in Oxford. That’s right 17. Why are we letting this industry take control of so much of our town?
There are 17 vape and smoke shops in Oxford. That’s right 17. Why are we letting this industry take control of so much of our town?

Did you know there are 17 vape and smoke shops in Oxford? Because I sure did not. 

When I first heard this number, I thought it was a joke. Unfortunately, it’s true that Oxford houses more vape shops than it does cafes. 

I don’t vape or smoke, nor do I know many people who do so on a regular basis. But I’d like to ask the people who do so: Do you really need 17 different stores for one category of products? This strangely capitalized industry has created a toxic environment where smoke shops move into university towns looking to profit off students who are just beginning to explore adulthood.

I’ve heard countless times from students that there’s hardly anything to do Uptown to relax with friends if you’re not into the bar scene. These businesses looking to profit off students are the main culprits.

If we had places beyond only buying age-restricted products like alcohol and vape pens, then more students would want to go Uptown and spend time with their friends. In Columbus, Ohio, there are a few bar-arcades like 16-Bit and Pins Mechanical Company where drinks are served, but that’s not the main focus. 

You can go to 16-Bit for free before 9 p.m. because they allow under-21 hours, and then change to a 21-and-up after 9 p.m. If you don’t want to drink, you don’t have to. It’s a social place for people whether they want to drink or not. 

Pins Mechanical Company is similar to 16-Bit where they have hours for 21 years and younger, and then later hours for those 21 and over. It has duckpin bowling lanes and the opportunity to have fun at any hour. 

Either of these places would be great additions to Uptown considering they allow first-years and sophomores to have social spaces without a bar focus and upperclass students who want both a bar and a social place. 

That brings us back to the vape and smoke store prevalence in Oxford. Why are smoke shops an invasive species? E-cigarettes and vape pens are likely no safer than typical cigarettes. The Cleveland Clinic warns against the harmful effects of vaping and smoking, including lung inflammation, irritation, scarring and narrowing the tubes lungs use to transfer air in and out of the body. 

Cigarettes have been extensively studied because of their age and known carcinogenic chemicals. Vapes and e-cigarettes, however, have not been around long enough to do major, comprehensive studies on long-term impacts of inhaling these chemicals. 

The Food and Drug Administration labels these products as ENDS (Electronic Nicotine Delivery Systems) and has regulated them since 2016. The problem is that regulation doesn’t equate to vapes and e-cigarettes not causing harm to those who use them. Flavored products tend to attract younger audiences, which is why the FDA started cracking down on these e-cigarettes. 

That’s why the FDA designed “The Real Cost” campaign; this campaign aims to discourage people from using vapes and other ENDS products by educating them on the drastic health effects. It’s a long way from doing enough, but it’s a step in the right direction

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A quick puff of a vape pen occasionally, or even every day, may seem like a harmless thing, but it’s not worth chemotherapy or surgery, coming from someone who’s had both even if for different reasons. 

You have your whole life ahead of you as a college student — don’t let smoke and vape shops take your money and your health away from you. 

Abbey Elizondo is a senior double-majoring in professional and creative writing, with a minor in digital marketing. She has been with The Student for a little more than two years and is a senior staff writer.