The idea that e-cigarettes are a healthier alternative to smoking may soon go up in smoke. There was a lot of excitement among vapers when e-cigarettes first became popular on campus.
Many students liked the idea that they would no longer be restricted to the outdoors when it came to nicotine breaks, but that changed after the Utah Indoor Clean Air Act was modified to include e-cigarettes effective on Jan. 1, 2014.
“I was unaware of the change. I don’t think that they ought to be used in class, and I am going to be doing something about it,” says Dennis Millard, an instructor in the design department.
Other students are aware of the change in the law and continue to use their e-cigarettes indoors anyway.
“I fundamentally disagree with them not being allowed indoors,” says a Salt Lake Community College student who requested his name be withheld. “I think that it has more to do with anti-tobacco laws than health, but I also think there is a time and a place, like if I am using it in class I try to blow the vapor down and be discrete about it so that it doesn’t bother other people.”
Some see vaping as a compromise with non-smokers. They feel that it gives them a way to continue their habit without any of the unpleasant side effects associated with cigarettes. However, a lot of students have questions about the risk of secondhand exposure and about where e-cigarettes can or can’t be used on campus.
“The vaporizer is a way not to have to go outside and walk a mile away from the building to feed my addiction. If I can feed my vices wherever I am without bothering anybody, it makes me a more productive person. How is this even an issue?” says another anonymous SLCC student. “I feel like this is a way for me as a smoker to take my life back. The more laws they make, the more I am just going to hide it. As smokers, we came up with this compromise. It’s no longer dangerous. It’s just water vapor. The anti smokers just automatically look at it with this smug attitude, like why don’t you just stop doing it?”
Not all students who use vaporizers are using them indoors. Some feel that students who blatantly disregard the rules make all vapers look bad.
“I don’t agree with a general ban on vaping indoors because vaping doesn’t have the same health concerns as smoking,” says Laurie Landrum, who switched to vapor in July. “My smoker’s cough is gone, it doesn’t make me smell bad, and my overall health is better after switching, but there is still a certain etiquette and basic consideration for others that should be followed.”
According to health professionals, the claim that the vapor exhaled is just harmless water vapor is a common misconception.
“The American Heart and Lung Association has done a lot of research on this. If you want to know what is in the exhaled vapor, you can find that information on their website,” says Tatiana Burton who is in charge of the SLCC Health and Wellness Services’ smoking cessation program.
Burton says that because SLCC is a higher education institution in the state of Utah, the tobacco policy still applies, so they are not to be used indoors at all. Students caught using e-cigarettes inside will be asked to “put out or put away,” and repeat offenders will be reported to Marlin Clark, the dean of students.
There are still many unknowns when it comes to the safety of e-cigarettes. They still use nicotine which is highly addictive.
“Safer? Personally I don’t think so,” Burton says. Burton also disagreed with the idea that e-cigarettes can be used to kick the habit. “They are not a tobacco cessation device because they still contain nicotine.”
If students want to quit, there is a smoking cessation program available at SLCC for only $40. To learn more about this program, students can contact Burton at (801) 957-4837.
Researchers found that the ‘water vapor’ does carry a smell, and it does contain secondhand nicotine. It can also carry other chemicals depending on what brand of ‘juice’ vapers use. A new study published in the journal Nicotine and Tobacco Research to evaluate secondhand exposure found that although the amount of nicotine in the second hand vapor is less than nicotine found in second hand smoke, nonusers are still exposed to nicotine in the secondhand vapor.
“Everything that you breathe in, you breathe out. Their body doesn’t absorb all of it,” says Christine Gonzales, who has a class with students who use their e-cigs in class. “The vapors make me feel nauseous, and it gives me a headache. I actually feel physically ill afterward. I want to have the choice to breathe clean air or not, and their choices shouldn’t override mine.”