The newest "vaping" trend hits WMU's campus

A new trend in vaporizing is currently all over the internet, but what will happen when it comes to Western Michigan University’s campus?

MONQ pens, labeled as an aromatherapy device, are the newest trend in vaporizing material. However, there is one major difference between traditional ‘vapes’ and MONQ pens according to their website; MONQ pens vaporize water.

Since Sept. 2014, WMU has been a smoke-free campus in an attempt to improve the overall health of the university.

“[The smoke-free] policy represents an extension of WMU's student and employee wellness initiatives, all aimed at fostering a healthier, more productive living and learning environment while working towards reduced healthcare costs,” according to WMU’s website.

In addition to a ban on traditional forms of tobacco products,which include cigarettes, cigars and pipes, WMU has banned “[tobacco] derivatives,” which “includes non-combustible tobacco-free products such as e-cigarettes,” which do create smoke, according to WMU’s website.

But what about water vaporizers, such as MONQ pens, which have the same appearance as a traditional ‘vape’ pen, but none of the smoke?

WMU student Caleb Johnstone, a former self-described ‘social smoker,’ said for him, smoking was more about the action of going outside and being with friends than consuming nicotine.

“I used to smoke just to hang out with my friends,” Johnstone said. “I just wanted to hang out outside. Everyone else was doing it.”

It eventually became a way to relieve stress for Johnstone.

“[High School] classes are a lot,” Johnstone said. “Imagine college. [It’s] crazy.”

MONQ pens advertise to help both of these common smoker problems.

“The haze that you see that looks like smoke is water vapor, similar to steam coming off of boiling water, as the liquid inside MONQ is heated to approximately 215 degrees,” according to the MONQ website. In addition, aroma therapy has proven stress relief qualities and has been used for thousands of years, beginning in ancient Egypt, according to aromatheraphy.com.

But for WMU’s smoke-free policy, could MONQ and similar aroma therapy pens be considered a “tobacco derivative?”

Claire Carter, a registered West Michigan nurse from St. Joseph, said the only foreseeable health risk of MONQ pens are the addictive quality of “hand to mouth” actions.

“Habit forming is especially prevalent with kids under 18,” Carter said. “But it says MONQ pens are intended for 18 and up.”  

Carter does state that, because aromatherapy pens are a ‘new trend,’ the research just isn’t there to be positive about potential risks. Her research looks promising on its safety.

“It seems completely different from even e-cigarettes,” Carter said. “It falls into its own category. That’s what’s hard to tell about it[...]The temperature isn’t hot enough to damage any tissue in the mouth, and because it’s not smoking, you don’t have any of the harmful side effects of having smoke in your lungs.”

It seems MONQ pens, in addition to not being harmful, may even have helpful stress relieving qualities on WMU campus. The smoke-free ban is in place to promote health on campus, according the WMU website, so would banning this new potential “smoking derivative,” if defined as such, actually ban a way to lower stress on campus?

“It just seems like a personal humidifier,” Carter said. “It might even help students quit smoking.”

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