Smoking rates are falling on U.S. college campuses as students increasingly turn to electronic cigarettes for their nicotine fix, but universities are still mulling campus vape bans.
Penn State University is the latest to float the idea of a smoke-free campus, which would include banning e-cigarettes, despite the fact the devices heat liquid nicotine and contain none of the cancer-causing chemicals released from combustible tobacco. The University Park Undergraduate Association is pushing the ban, arguing that campus vaping is not respectful to fellow students and harms the overall health of the university’s campus, reports the Daily Collegian.
Vaping is growing in popularity on the campus, particularly use of a small and discreet e-cigarette product called the Juul. Despite the aggressive push to enact policy by UPUA Vice President Alex Shockley, the student body does not appear to be all that fired up about banning the practice.
“If you take a hit of a vape or a Juul, especially a Juul, [the smoke] is going to disperse within a matter of seconds,” Ron Feinberg, a sophomore at Penn State who sometimes vapes, told the Daily Collegian. “So these people that are getting offended and putting complaints into the school [when people are vaping respectfully], I feel like it’s kind of unnecessary.”
The American College Health Association’s fall 2016 survey showed the percentage of college students smoking daily or every other day dropped below 5 percent in 2016, while the vaping population grew. Cigarette smoking is still far more prevalent on campuses than vaping, however, the stats show college students are becoming more open to alternative technologies that reduce harm to themselves.
“No one is doing this to bother anyone,” Feinberg told the Daily Collegian. “People are [smoking from vaporizers] because… they’re either quitting smoking…or they’re using it as a smoking alternative. People have these polar opposite [beliefs, as well as practices on vaping], and we need to try to find a midpoint between them.”
While researchers argue that policies aimed at cutting down on the use of combustible cigarettes are admirable, they caution against rules that falsely conflate nicotine-based devices with combustible cigarettes. They claim that attempts to restrict the practice ignore the gains being made on reducing smoking rates throughout the country.
The UPUA hopes the university will approve the ban for the next school year.
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