Stuyvesant Reality Check Holds a Vaping Debate Night

Stuyvesant Reality Check holds a Vaping Debate Night for students to learn and discuss the effects of vaping.

Reading Time: 3 minutes

Stuyvesant Reality Check hosted a debate in the cafeteria on vaping on Wednesday, April 3. The debate stimulated discussion about topics such as whether or not vape products should be made illegal, as well as if vaping is a solution or a gateway to smoking and other drug usage. 

The debate was open to all students to participate and spectate. It featured two randomly composed teams of three students who signed up. Team A advocated against the usage of vapes and was composed of junior Sasha Ruinsky, senior Charles Stern, and freshman Zainab Ajakaye. Meanwhile, Team B advocated for the legality of vapes and was composed of juniors Samantha Ruinsky and Seth Fenton, along with freshman Josh Arthur.

Led by President Hui Wen Weng, Stuyvesant Reality Check aims to advocate against the spread and use of tobacco to lawmakers and the general public. “As much as Stuyvesant students are known for being great students and respectable people, it is unsurprising that there will be students that stray into the wrong path given how much of tobacco-related advertisements are targeted towards youth,” Weng said in an email interview. “So I thought, I've learned so much, why don't I start right here in my home base? And that's how Reality Check stepped foot in Stuy.” 

Stuy Reality Check is a local chapter of the state-wide Reality Check program that is managed by NYC Smoke Free. In Stuy Reality Check, members have many opportunities to engage in activities advocating against tobacco usage. “This includes but is not limited to writing Op-Eds to be submitted to local newspaper networks, presenting to local community boards, visiting the state capitol in Albany to educate legislators, spending a few days of their summer at upstate at Keuka Park to meet with other Reality Check members from all over New York State, etc,” Stuyvesant Reality Check Vice President Manaal Khurram said in an email interview.  

The debate could be seen as a gateway into joining Stuyvesant Reality Check and learning more about vaping. “Stuy students can join Reality Check to gain a greater understanding of tobacco companies and their products while being part of the effort of stopping these companies,” Samantha Ruinsky said in an email interview.

Although the club was originally formed to combat tobacco usage, members of the debate were able to argue for or against the legality of vaping. “The debate members made an excellent point in pointing out the concern that if vape products are banned, the trading of vape products could become part of the black market and become more dangerous. However, if they are not banned, there exists a product on the free market that is known for delivering toxic metals into the lungs of its users,” Weng said.

Prior to the debate, participants conducted research to form the basis of their arguments. “[The] Reality Check leaders made the debate questions and sent out emails [to] people interested in participating. Once the teams were given the questions, they had time to discuss and form an argument,” Ruinsky said. “I think [the] debate helped Stuy students understand how dangerous vapes are and how tobacco companies use marketing to get people our age to buy vapes.” 

Stuy Reality Check showed that there is a significant amount of nuance to be had when discussing vaping. The debate discussed many factors surrounding vaping, including the influence the media has on students. “The purpose of the event was really to open up the discussion about vaping in our community and really invoke our audience to notice and consider these subtle behaviors around them in day to day life,” Weng said.

This nuance allowed for further questions to be raised by the audience members. “Some questions from members of the audience also raise the question of, [...] whether retail sellers, parents, and even the users themselves should be responsible or liable for the vaping epidemic,” Weng said. “Many students agreed that a middle ground must be found instead.”

Participants from both sides reached agreements on certain points. “The most important part of the debate was when both teams agreed on how morally wrong it is for tobacco companies to target young people in their advertising, especially since vapes are banned for people under 21,” Ruinsky said. “This is important because people need to know the full risks of vapes and not be swept up in myths about how they are safer than cigarettes.”

While Team B may have emerged as the victor, this debate proved that there isn’t a “correct” viewpoint in the argument. It showed the complexity and controversy of the issue. “In terms of the larger social context, no one comes out a clear winner. For nearly all of the debate topics, there seems to be no clear yes or no to the question,” Weng said.