Electronic cigarettes have been gaining popularity, especially with young people who believe the devices are safer than traditional tobacco cigarettes and may even help in quitting smoking. Well, the science isn’t completely in on that yet. In the meantime, many colleges have instituted a smoking ban on e-cigarettes on campuses and in dorm rooms, citing reasons of student health and improved quality of college life.
What is an electronic cigarette?
An electronic cigarette (or e-cig) is a small cylindrical device that uses a battery to heat a liquid, containing nicotine and other chemicals, into a vapor that a person inhales. E-cigs don’t emit smoke, like traditional cigarettes, but they do emit a vapor. E-cigs come in various flavors, such as watermelon, bubblegum and cherry.
According to the Tobacco Vapor Electronic Cigarette Association, there are about 4 million users in the United States, with sales expected to top $1 billion in 2013. There is no age-minimum for a person purchasing e-cigarettes; however, some states and counties are passing age limits. E-cigs are not federally regulated as tobacco products or as medicines (such as stop-smoking aids).
Are electronic cigarettes healthier than real ones?
Although e-cigs have been around for decades, they have only recently become popular on a wide scale. Even so, there is not much medical evidence to conclude whether they are safer. Because e-cigs contain far fewer chemicals than real cigarettes, manufacturers and promoters of e-cigs claim they are healthier. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has done only a preliminary examination of the health claims of e-cigs and found that they contain known carcinogens. Until it can do further studies, the FDA has issued a warning about the use of e-cigs.
Critics contend that e-cigs are a gateway to traditional tobacco products. “About 90 percent of all smokers begin smoking as teenagers,” said Tim McAfee, director of the CDC’s Office on Smoking and Health, in “Kids’ use of electronic cigarettes doubles” by Rob Stein on NPR September 5, 2013. He continued, “We must keep our youth from experimenting or using any tobacco products,” including e-cigs.
Electronic cigarettes banned on campus
Like businesses, offices and bars, most colleges and universities have banned the use of tobacco cigarettes. According to Americans for Nonsmokers’ Rights, just under 1200 places of higher learning have adopted smoke-free campus policies. Now, many schools are adding electronic cigarettes to their ban, citing the need for more research in determining whether they are safe for the user and the bystander. Some schools are also banning tobacco paraphernalia including hookahs, chewing tobacco, pipes and cigars.
Idaho State University, Missouri State University and University of Texas at Austin are among the schools that have banned e-cigs on campus. The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill does not yet ban e-cigs, however: “We consider them to be inconsistent with the goals of the [smoke-free] policy, and, when asked, we have discouraged their use in our no-smoking areas,” said Susan Hudson, the outreach editor of UNC News Services, in the article “As authorities ponder the future of e-cigarettes, some colleges move against them,” by Sarah Sexton in Washington Post December 2, 2013.
Some reasons critics give for banning e-cigs on campus:
• E-cigs smell and emit a nicotine vapor that is bothersome to bystanders.
• E-cigs distract from the learning process.
• The battery charger from e-cigs has been known to start fires.
Meanwhile, a petition at Carroll Community College in Maryland is asking the school to reverse its ban in e-cigs, saying that the ban will lead student smokers back to more traditional tobacco products.
Do electronic cigarettes help you to stop smoking?
A few small studies and one led by the Institute of Social and Preventive Medicine at the University of Geneva in Switzerland show preliminary evidence that e-cigs do help people stop smoking tobacco cigarettes. Study participants have stopped smoking or reduced their use of traditional cigarettes.
There have been no long-term studies on whether e-cigs help smokers quit. To help answer this question, Penn State Milton S. Hershey Medical Center and Virginia Commonwealth University will collaborate to conduct a clinical trial using 520 people to evaluate the effects of electronic cigarettes on smokers who have decided to quit. “The results are expected to be used by federal officials in creating regulations for electronic cigarettes,” reported David Wenner in the article “Penn State-Virginia Commonwealth collaboration will study matters including electronic cigarettes,” on PENN Live, October 22, 2013.
Do you smoke e-cigarettes? Do you think your campus should ban their use?