E-cigs around campus blow mixed signals

The population of St. Edward’s University students who use electronic cigarettes (e-cigs) is growing at a rapid rate, bringing up the ever-present debate to join fellow universities in banning tobacco use. Whether this is the next step for St. Edward’s is up to the students.

Walking around campus, the presence of cigarette smoke is undeniable. With a large population of smokers, a recurring question arises – what do we do with them? Smoking has been directly linked to dozens of health issues leading many universities to go tobacco free.

In 2011, a bill was proposed by the Student Government Association (SGA) to determine whether or not to ban smoking on campus, including the use of e-cigs. Even with faculty testimony, the bill was unsuccessful.

With e-cigs becoming more popular on and off campus, students have voiced many opinions over the controversial issue of whether they are better or worse than cigarettes.

In an online survey about e-cigarettes that polled 269 students, 66 percent of students believed that e-cigs should not be banned on St. Edward’s campus. In a question asking whether or not students believed e-cigs were harmful to the health of bystanders, 31 percent said they were harmful, 59 percent said they were less harmful than cigarettes, 10 percent believed e-cigs had no effect on health and 13 percent of respondents did not answer.

“I think they’re a good alternative to smoking cigarettes if you want to stop but I don’t really know if they’re much better for you,” Oriya Villarreal said.

This is a common opinion, as e-cigs are relatively new and information is hard to find.

“I can’t really say (if rules regarding cigarettes should be applied to e-cigs) because I don’t know if they release the same toxins,” Villarreal said. “I think the rules should apply because you’re still smoking something.”

Villarreal, a smoker, has a firm grasp on the regulations put in place regarding smoking.

The student code of conduct limits smoking to designated areas, the violation of which can carry consequences.

Cigarettes have become increasingly unwelcome as more research is brought to the public eye, leading many students to support a no-tobacco policy.

“I think (e-cigs are) unhealthy but they are a lot better than cigarettes,” Molly von Berg said. “I don’t care about people smoking e-cigs but I don’t like constantly smelling cigarette smoke.”

The smoke clouds that surround the smoking areas at St. Edward’s are slowly being replaced by the vapor of e-cigs, considered healthier for this reason – their classification as vapor instead of smoke.

“It doesn’t matter if the smoke is considered healthier than cigarettes,” Hailey Johnson said. “It is still rude to blow smoke in public places.”

E-cigs are tobacco free, but often not nicotine free and contain many unknown chemicals unique to each manufacturer.

“If they still contain nicotine and the addictive factors, e-cigarette users should follow the same rules,” Jacquelyn Turcinovic said.

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