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Chris Schueler

Chris Schueler ’78

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Alumnus’ documentary chronicles the dangers of vaping

Jun 26, 2020

University of the Pacific’s three campuses may soon be smoke-free, and multiple Emmy-award winning documentarian Chris Schueler’s recent work shows support for that policy. 

Schueler (’78 COP) has produced a powerful documentary called “Vape.” He spoke about that work, and health issues involved with vaping, e-cigarettes and traditional cigarettes, during a recent virtual forum sponsored by the Pacific Alumni Association. 

Schueler, a Pacific Distinguished Alumni Award (Public Service) recipient, worked for two years on the project and it left many impressions. 

“We (Christopher Productions) work with a lot of teenagers around the world. We always ask them ‘what is the next big issue you see facing people your age?’ ” he said. “Without question, people are talking about vaping.” 

Schueler said the United States Surgeon General and the Food and Drug Administration have called vaping an epidemic. In New Mexico, where he lives, half of high school students and one-quarter of middle school students have tried vaping, he said. 

“In California, 32% of eleventh graders and 8% of seventh graders had tried it,” said Schueler, citing 2017 figures. 

Why are adolescents and young adults gravitating to vaping? 

“It’s easy to use, relatively inexpensive and they have the perception that it is safer than cigarettes,” Schueler said. “The scary thing is people are not just using it for tobacco. Marijuana, meth, you can put anything in. If you are at a party, do not share a vape. There is no telling what might be in there.” 

Dr. Donna Upson of University of New Mexico Health Services said in the documentary that many adolescents gravitate to vaping because they think it is safer than traditional cigarettes. 

“But adolescent use of nicotine can harm brain areas that control attention, learning and impulse control,” she said. “We are addicting a new generation to nicotine in a different manner. I have seen people who are able to kick cocaine or heroin or meth who cannot kick nicotine. It is that addictive.” 

One method of getting through to young vapers is through outreach by dentists. One dentist in Schueler’s documentary estimated an increase of 27% in gum disease with vapers. 

Schueler specializes in issues that affect teens and young adults. His previous documentary work includes teen pregnancy, mental health, opiod addiction, bullying, gambling and date violence. 

Schueler is active with his alma mater. He worked with fellow documentarian and alumnus Dean Butler on “weekend workshops” with Media X students. In the fall, he plans to teach a class on documentary making with Kevin Pontuti, director of the Media X program. 

“My years at Pacific were such an important time in my life,” Schueler said. “You build relationships that last. And you want to give back.”

Proposed University of the Pacific’s policy statement on tobacco (excerpted):
“The University of the Pacific is committed to providing a safe and healthy working and learning environment for the students, faculty, staff and visitors on its campuses, and therefore all forms of smoking, vaping and tobacco use are strictly prohibited at all times on all University Property.”

The public comment period on the policy will close on July 2 (PacificNet login is required).

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