Despite a smoke-free policy on campus, some students have noticed an uptick in the use of electronic cigarettes such as Juuls on university property over the past few months.
The 2013 policy prevents the use of cigarettes, cigars, pipe tobacco and any electronic cigarette that emits smoke on university-owned facility or property.
“The policy banned e-cigarettes, including Juuls,” said Sandra Bentley, the director of the Student Pharmacy. “They’re not supposed to be anywhere on campus.”
Though the smoke produced by e-cigarettes is different than and potentially not as noticeable as that from a traditional cigarette, Bentley said it is still important to eliminate this smoke from campus.
“They might not be the same as cigarettes, but they still put toxins in the air for others to breathe,” she said. “For students with asthma or other respiratory diseases, it is important to prevent this.”
The smoke-free policy states that students may be ticketed if caught smoking on campus. It is up to the University Police Department to enforce this policy.
Bentley said she thinks the only way the university could make these punishments more effective would be to increase the fine from its current $25 amount.
“The policy did help to decrease the volume of smoking on campus, so it may eventually help to decrease e-cigarette use on campus, as well,” Bentley said. “An increased ability to fine and enforce the policy would help.”
Shannon Richardson, assistant director of Campus Recreation, served as co-chair of the Smoke-Free Campus Implementation Committee that wrote the 2013 policy.
“The policy was written so that students, faculty and staff could walk about campus without having to be subjected to second-hand smoke,” Richardson said. “Smoking outside of buildings was extremely prevalent on campus at the time, and there was an incident reported to ASB of one prospective student who, while on a tour of campus, had a severe allergic reaction to second-hand smoke and was taken to the hospital because of it.”
The use of e-cigarettes has recently spiked in teens and young adults and Oxford High School recently began policing the underage use of electronic cigarettes.
“Many e-cigarettes are candy-flavored (and) appealing to younger ages,” Richardson said. “The vapor emitted from e-cigarettes is also harmful to anyone inhaling it.”
Despite their billing as a safer alternative to a cigarette, Juuls have the ability to become highly addictive for young users. According to the Office of the Surgeon General, e-cigarettes like the Juul contain enough nicotine to become addictive and dangerous for those under the age of 25, when the brain is still developing.
“E-cigarettes are marketed as ‘safe alternatives’ to traditional cigarettes, but the reality is that they are insidious because many people believe they are safe,” Richardson said. “E-cigarette use is a gateway to traditional cigarettes and leaves the user wanting more.”
A recent BMJ study showed that among those who had never smoked a cigarette by 12th grade, those who had recently vaped were more than four times more likely to report cigarette smoking after vaping. Even those who were perceived to be at the lowest risk of cigarette smoking showed a desensitization to cigarette smoking, no longer thinking it posed a “great risk of harm.”
The popularity of e-cigarettes has reached far past schools and college campuses alone. Local bars and restaurants have also begun to notice frequent Juul use on their properties, as well. While some locations treat Juuls the same as traditional cigarettes, other business owners have not yet felt compelled to take measures to prevent Juul use.
“I haven’t heard any complaints from customers about vaping,” Lee Harris, owner of Funky’s Pizza & Daiquiri Bar, said. “If I did hear any complaints about it, I would consider doing something about it, but that just hasn’t happened yet.”
Harris said that he appreciates how Juuls and other e-cigarettes aren’t as noticeable to other customers as traditional cigarettes are.
“They don’t make the bar smell as bad as cigarettes do,” he said.
For students on campus who wish to quit smoking or using e-cigarettes, Bentley recommends taking advantage of the multitude of resources on campus.
“The pharmacy offers our Tobacco Quit program, and there are even websites and phone numbers you can call for help,” she said. “There are a lot of options available to help you.”