UT can help curb nicotine addictions on campus

Neha Dronamraju

When my best friend started coughing up blood a few days ago, the first thing I thought of was her Juul. Fortunately we discovered her symptoms were just the result of a prolonged chest infection, but in the four hours between her coughing fit and the diagnosis, I feared the worst — a vaping-related, irreversible pulmonary illness.

 The consequences of vaping were previously ambiguous, but multiple reports regarding an unidentified lung disease, linked to seven fatalities and hundreds of illnesses, emerged this past month. According to a report by the New York Times, 1 in 4 youths between the ages 12 and 17 uses some form of electronic cigarettes. Teenagers now cultivate addictions before they get to college.

 UT is a tobacco-free campus, yet many people still use e-cigarettes. This is a concerning statistic considering the new findings about the negative consequences of the habit. 

Since the problem starts before students come to campus, preventative measures are not useful. UT can instead address the vaping crisis by supplementing its students’ recovery process.

 To mitigate the adverse effects of vaping, University Health Services could offer free nicotine recovery products. Students who are looking to quit could take the first step through a convenient, on-campus resource.

 Accounting junior Ryan Sherby believes this solution would benefit him.

 “I started (vaping) my senior year of high school, and it’s become a really bad and overwhelming habit,” Sherby said. “I’ve tried to quit a few times because the health effects scare me, but I haven’t been successful.”

 Sherby said he experienced some physical withdrawal symptoms, including some related to the oral fixation he developed as a consequence of using his Juul so often.

 “I would definitely benefit from some of the things you’re proposing,” he said. “If UHS offered just the gum, I would definitely chew it all the time because I think that would help me a lot.”

 UHS currently offers free condoms and dental dams in the Student Services Building and distributes them to various locations around campus. Adding NicoDerm CQ patches or nicotine gum would benefit students’ health.

 While nicotine recovery products can be expensive and require prolonged use, they’re a worthwhile investment for UT to make. As the adverse health effects of e-cigarette use gradually unravel, concern about the number of users should grow.

 UHS also provides students information for off-campus recovery products and on-campus behavioral programs. These resources include the tobacco-free campus website and the Counseling and Mental Health Center’s Quitters program.

 “Students wanting to quit using tobacco can search for ‘tobacco cessation programs’ at www.healthyhorns.utexas.edu to learn how to access free on-campus and online quitting resources,” said Dr. Melinda McMichael, UHS interim executive director and chief medical office. “We encourage students with insurance to contact their insurance companies to see how they might help.”

 While these resources are invaluable, students could also benefit from medical interventions provided on campus. McMichael said she couldn’t comment on the feasibility of implementing this solution, as there are a combination of factors that influence it. 

 Young people, including college students, are negatively affected by the e-cigarette epidemic. Academic institutions, responsible for intellectually and physically nurturing students, must combat it. 

Dronamraju is a public health sophomore from Dallas.