University of New Orleans Allows Vapor on Campus while Banning Analog Cigarettes September 03 2014
Where E-Cigs Land in Campus Smoking Bans
In 2013, the Louisiana state legislature passed a resolution that requires public universities in the state to create a smoking prohibition on campus. It's up to the individual universities how to implement this, and the decision has motivated some universities to take a stance on electronic cigarettes as well.
In New Orleans, Tulane, Delgado, Dillard, Southern University at New Orleans, and Xavier have enacted campuswide smoking bans, all of which include the ban of e-cigarettes. But the University of New Orleans allows the vaping of e-cigarettes outdoors, 25 feet from any building entrance. The trend across the U.S., in general, leans more in favor of e-cigarettes – 1,372 campuses have adopted a smoking ban, but only 176 of them have also banned e-cigarettes.
In order to make specific decisions about UNO's new smoking ban, a faculty committee was convened to vote and pass on recommendations to University President Peter Fos. When the issue of banning e-cigarettes on campus came up, the committee's vote was evenly split, so the UNO Student Government passed a separate resolution asking Dr. Fos to allow e-cigarettes on campus.
UNO Director of Public Relations Adam Norris said, "President Fos expressed to me that because e-cigarettes are still relatively new, there's not a great deal in terms of a body of research on the secondary health effects of e-cigarettes." As a result, Dr. Fos decided to go along with the student body's wishes and allow vaping on campus.
Dominick Maggio, a UNO Student Government senator, said, "we did feel like vaporizers, being water vapor and not really causing a problem for anyone else, should be kept on campus. We had the support on campus...to make the bold claim in the face of the administration that we don't want this ban quite like it is."
E-cigarettes have certainly helped some students to quit smoking.
Chris Toups, a UNO engineering student, switched from tobacco to e-cigarettes three months ago. When asked about UNO's decision to allow e-cigs, Toups said, "The only way I found out about e-cigs was seeing other people smoke them. There hasn't been enough research, but the one thing we do know unequivocally at this point is that those 200 extra chemicals -- besides just nicotine -- aren't present in the vapor." Toups added, "I know that if I puffed up around you right now it wouldn't bother you nearly as much as a regular cigarette. You get this slight sweet smell for just a second, as opposed to that really strong cigarette smell. But I'm not trying to blow it in anybody's face."
Loyola University hasn't implemented its smoking policy yet, but will likely do so by the fall of 2015.
Multiple studies have suggested that e-cigarettes are an effective method of quitting tobacco. Other studies show that e-cigarettes contain far fewer malicious chemicals than cigarettes -- in levels that are approved as safe for frequent workplace exposure -- as well as no carbon monoxide.
The American Heart Association has supported e-cigarettes as a last-ditch method of smoking cessation. Meanwhile, the World Health Organization is coming down hard on e-cigarettes, and the FDA says it's best to play it safe.
UNO's decision to allow e-cigarettes is subject to change when more information comes out. It could eventually be recognized as a progressive choice in student health, or it could go the other way. It will be fascinating to see how UNO's population of smokers and vapers shifts, or doesn't, in the coming semesters.
Smoking and vaping are big issues in this state: Louisiana has the eighth highest rate of tobacco smokers of all U.S. states, with a smoking population of 24.1%. New Orleans is a microcosm of the larger e-cigarette picture, and time will show us what role vaping could play in our health and our community.
Brendan Frost is an MFA student in fiction at the University of New Orleans, and a freelance journalist and copywriter. Brendan has been vaping for over 6 months, using e-cigarettes to successfully quit tobacco