You may have noticed people puffing on e-cigarettes, or “vaping,” around campus. The thin, shiny cylinders, some of which light up upon inhalation, are hard to miss; they look as if they’re straight out of a sci-fi movie.
As a non-smoker, I applaud these vapers for replacing the harmful traditional cigarettes with this futuristic, comparatively safer alternative.
But, as of August 2, 2013, university policy on smoking was revised to equate e-cigarette use with traditional tobacco smoking.
“The revised policy clarifies that ‘e-cigarettes’ and other similar nicotine vapor inhalers are included in the definition of ‘smoking,’ and such inhalers are therefore subject to the provisions of the policy applicable to other lighted tobacco products.”
This means that e-cigarette use is prohibited everywhere on campus, except for specifically designated smoking areas, despite the fact that they lack toxic secondhand smoke. Unfortunately, this policy forces vapers to maintain the stigma of smoking, when, in reality, they are actively trying to reduce or kick their harmful habit.
E-cigarettes use battery power to heat liquid nicotine or flavors, turning it into a vapor, which the user inhales. These devices allow smokers to bypass the thousands of dangerous chemicals that come with conventional cigarettes.
According to New York Times article “A Tool to Quit Smoking Has Some Unlikely Critics,” by John Tierney, the Food and Drug Administration issued an unfounded warning about the potentially toxic chemicals in e-cig vapor.
Tierney writes, “But the agency has never presented evidence that the trace amounts actually cause any harm, and it has neglected to mention that similar traces of these chemicals have been found in other F.D.A.-approved products, including nicotine patches and gum.”
Of course, research on e-cigarettes should continue, but until there is evidence to suggest that they are notably harmful, we should welcome their use as a reduction or quitting tool for smokers. In fact, clinical trials have already shown that e-cigs can significantly reduce a regular smoker’s frequency of cigarette use.
A research article by Riccardo Polosa et al., published on BioMed Central Public Health, monitored 40 regular smokers who were deemed “unwilling to quit.” By week-24 of the experiment, nearly a third of the participants reduced their number of cigarettes per day by 50 percent, and almost a quarter had quit traditional cigarettes altogether.
The authors concluded, “By replacing tobacco cigarettes, the e-cigarette can only save lives. Here we show for the first time that e-Cigarettes can substantially decrease cigarette consumption without causing significant side effects in smokers not intending to quit.”
While we can’t yet be completely sure of all the effects of e-cigarettes, two things are clear: They help smokers transition from conventional cigarettes, and they are much safer to puff on, in comparison.
Students who are attempting to better themselves in this regard deserve support, not condemnation. If you ask me, the logic is clear. Vapers around campus shouldn’t be confined to the designated smoking areas when they produce no smoke.