Look man, whether you vape or Juul or whatever is between you and the lord. You are free to breathe whatever substance you like into your lungs. HOWEVER.

Picture a rainy afternoon. I’m talking to someone at College Walk and they take out some kind of breathing device – I wonder if they’re asthmatic, is it an inhaler, are they okay? I realize – too late – that it’s a vape pen and that they are .2 seconds from exhaling its contents directly into my face. As the cloud embraces my face and mouth, I can’t help but stop and make sure what just happened had actually happened.

Were they within their rights to be vaping? Absolutely. This is a perfectly acceptable use of bodily autonomy – they can breathe in whatever they like.

That being said, my right to bodily autonomy ensures that what breathe into my lungs should also be up to me. And when you, prospective face-vaper, vape in my face, that complicates things. See, I need to inhale to keep living. However, if I were to inhale after you vaped in my face, I would be breathing in your vape cloud, which I do not particularly want to do. For those keeping track at home, my choices are to breathe in vape, which has been linked to a series of adverse health effects (including severe lung disease) or to not inhale until the vape has dissipated, which depending on the concentration of the cloud can be an uncomfortably long time. That, frankly, is not a choice that should be foisted upon me. And yet.

Picture another scenario. I’m in my suite hallway while one of my suitemates has a few friends over. One of them whips out a Juul and proceeds to inhale and exhale its contents maybe half a foot from my face. I politely ask them to put it away because we’re inside and I do not want to breathe that in.

Let us consider what makes this situation different. This Juuler did not do so directly into my face – I just happened to be there. However, this occurred not in a public space like outside but in a private, inside space, which happened to be where I lived. The consequence of not being outside is that there is far less air circulation within the walls of my suite, so when you vape, I am far more likely to breathe that in, and I’d be breathing it in for a longer period of time.

We have covered that I am well within my rights to have autonomy over what I breathe in. Therefore, it is important to note that I am not the only one that lives and breathes in the suite – I share it with five lovely suitemates, all with bodily autonomy of their own. So, when you Juul in our suite, you violate the bodily autonomy of me and five other people. And that’s not the end of it. With the aforementioned consequences of my suite being indoors, you are not only violating our bodily autonomy, but you are also violating our space. You have the choice whether to vape in your suite or your room – you have the choice of whether to introduce the contents of that vape into your air supply or not. But when you Juul in our suite, we no longer have that choice – until that smoke cloud dissipates (however long that takes), you’ve made that choice for us.

Let’s talk a bit more about those contents. When I asked the Juuler to please put it away because I didn’t want to breathe that in, they (quite dismissively) remarked that “It’s just water vapor but, okay…” First off, no. It’s not just water vapor. E-cigs and the vapor they produce contain nicotine, formaldehyde, and acrolein (which is an irritant for eyes, skin, and the nasal passages), according to the American Lung Association. Surgeon General of the United States Vivek Murthy stated in a piece for The Hill that “Contrary to the belief of many, the aerosol produced by e-cigarettes is not harmless water vapor — it often contains nicotine and other chemical compounds that can have harmful effects on the user as well as those who inhale it secondhand.” (A Juul is an e-cig. Don’t let anyone tell you differently.)

Secondly, let us consider my situation. While I had a hunch of what was in that Juul and of what I was breathing in, I truly didn’t know for sure. Anything could have been in that cartridge – and anything could have been introduced into my suite’s air supply. If you force someone to breathe a mystery air, in what universe would that not be a) dangerous for the person inhaling it, b) rude, and c) a violation of their bodily autonomy?

Finally, let us consider that, despite all evidence pointing to the contrary, there really was just water vapor in that e-cig. If you, without warning, sprayed water vapor in my face, that would still be considered rude! And even if you told me after you did it that “it’s just water vapor”, I would still be (rightfully) annoyed, because, in the moment, I did not know what I was breathing in – refer back to the previous point. However, I want to make it painstakingly clear that there was not just water vapor in what I was made to breathe in. 

I’m not here to preach about the evils of e-cigs, the trouble the youths are getting themselves into these days, or how this generation will be the end of us. What you do with your lungs is up to you, and I am not asking that you put down the vape forever. But your choices are your choices – you don’t get to make them anyone else’s.

We get it, you vape via Bwog Archives