[9/30/19] – Vaping

Several states have made recreational marijuana legal, including most recently Illinois which is slated to go fully legal on January 1st, 2020. With the proliferation of demand for marijuana comes innovation. Some cultivators have invested in the technology of vaporization. Some manufacturers are more diligent about their safety protocol than others. As a result, a growing epidemic of public concern exists in today’s society related to the issue of illicit THC-related vaporization devices, otherwise known in practice as “vaping” by users. Hundreds of people have been hospitalized, and this week the death toll reached 12. Many states have reported illnesses, and the question becomes what do we do? In this week’s Lecture Spark we explore the of “vaping” and vaping related deaths through the lens of sociology. Specifically, we point to the medicalization of deviance and how socially constructing an epidemic can have significant effects on civic and economic matters.

Instructors, click on the link below to download this week’s lecture for use in your classroom. The deck contains a writing prompt, a debate question, as well as other assessment questions.

Download the PowerPoint Lecture Spark for Vaping

Learning Objectives

LO1: Discuss how sociology uniquely contributes to an understanding of vaping and vaping related deaths.

LO2: Understand how symbolic-interactionist and functionalist theories can be used to explain the issue of vaping and vaping related deaths from different levels of analysis.

LO3: Explain the application of the sociological imagination to this issue…specifically in the context of connecting public issues and personal troubles.




Discussion Questions

How can the concept of the medicalization of deviance be applied to this issue? In other words, how does being able to label conditions as an illness rather than an addition or preference for illegal drugs influence the social sentiment related to vaping products?

Why might the government be targeting the vaping market as opposed to the cigarette market or the gun market?

How does the label of illicit drugs increase the public fear and outrage related to vaping? Why might a symbolic-interactionist be interested in researching how the meanings attached to illegal drugs influences people’s attitudes related to the sale of these products?

What might the latent functions of outlawing the legal availability of vaping products? How might this influence the stability of society in ways that are entirely unexpected? What social institutions should be charged with restoring homeostasis to social order? Why?

Why might the victims of these deaths be of significance to the overall response by legislators? What social factors (e.g., race, gender, sexuality) contribute most mightily to public reaction to deaths that occur in society? How is this related to the social construction of these factors in the context of American culture?

People have agency to make choices within the parameters of the prescribed expectations of them by their society? What public issues contribute to the proliferation of vaping product illnesses and deaths?



1. A study of the interactions among drug dealers and their clients and the influence this has on the epidemic of vaping-related illness would be best analyzed at the…

a. Micro-level
b. Community-level
c. Macro-level
d. Global-level

2. Changing the label of deviant living conditions and/or behaviors to matters only to be handled by a medical professional is the medicalization of deviance. Which sociological theory does this best fit under?

a. Functional Theory
b. Conflict Theory
c. Symbolic-Interaction Theory
d. Modernization Theory

3. The speed with which the government acted to move bans for vaping related products because they are dangerous, as opposed to guns, cigarettes or alcohol, is an example of how _______ influences policy decisions.

a. Stigma
b. Relativity of deviance
c. Sanctions
d. Disapproval ratings


Photo credit: iStockphoto.com/sestovic

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