A couple of years ago I had an interesting conversation with a full-time seminary teacher in Utah who told me that a number of his otherwise faithful students had taken up vaping with e-cigarettes. Since I was researching how young adults are (or are not) keeping the standards of the Word of Wisdom, I was keenly interested in, and not a little alarmed by, this development.
“They don’t see it as violating the Word of Wisdom,” the teacher said. Since vaping exposes the user to nicotine but not tobacco, these teenagers viewed it as a healthier alternative to smoking. And some of the available flavors even make vaping sound like it’s beneficial: mango, mint, watermelon, and “summer peach” are among the offerings. In the absence of an official prohibition from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, these young people were experimenting.
Not so fast, the Church has now clarified. In this month’s edition of the New Era, the official magazine for youth, the Church states its position:
“Electronic vaporizers or e-cigarettes are devices people use to inhale mist, usually with various flavors. One study showed that nearly two-thirds of teen e-cigarette users thought that the pods they were vaping contained only flavoring. That’s way, way far from the truth. Most vaping pods contain nicotine, which is highly addictive, and all of them contain harmful chemicals. Vaping is clearly against the Word of Wisdom.”
I contacted the Church’s Public Affairs department about it, and received the response that “Church magazines are official publications and do represent the views of the Church.”
So there we have it. Vaping is verboten.
This is a clarification I am truly glad to see. While cigarette smoking has been declining across the nation, vaping has seen a sharp increase, particularly among young people.
This is problematic because according to the CDC, e-cigarettes are still very dangerous even though they’re not quite as toxic as tobacco. “Nicotine can harm the developing adolescent brain,” says the CDC, particularly those parts of the brain that govern important functions like self-control, attention, and mood.