Bridget Weisenberger, Staff Writer
They inhabit the Capbar patio and it matters not if the temperature is in the 30s or the 90s. Lifting a cigarette to their lips, they inhale and then blow out white puffs of smoke. If they’re not on the patio, you might find one or several outside the restricted distance of 25 feet from a building entrance blowing smoke clouds into the air. Yet, nowadays one can increasingly sees those telltale puffs of smoke rising in the air in Hagger, Braniff and some classrooms.
While the occasional signs of smoke drifting through the air inside various buildings might lead some to believe that the University of Dallas is going back in time, it’s actually possible that you’re seeing the future. That direction will hinge on how the university responds to the increasing use and popularity of e-cigarettes on campus.
E-cigarettes are battery-powered devices that release flavored water vapor that can be, but not always, laced with nicotine. The chemical components of e-cigarettes can vary depending on the producer, but for the most part they contain propylene glycol and/or vegetable glycerin. Both are common food additives. Part of the shock value of e-cigarettes is that they can look like normal cigarettes, cigars, pipes, pens, and even USB memory sticks.
When a smoker takes a “drag” on the device and exhales, the chemicals create a cloud of vapor and that led to the term “vaping.” It’s not, users say, “smoking.”
E-cigarettes are not regulated at the federal and state level and research into their health risks has proved inconclusive. But that has not stopped some cities, universities public school districts from taking unilateral action against e-cigarettes. The Frisco (Texas) City Council earlier this month voted unanimously to ban e-cigarettes in public areas. UT-Arlington has included e-cigarettes in its ban of tobacco products on campus and the DART system has added e-cigarettes to its ban of tobacco on all its property.
Among concerns cited about the devices is that nicotine can be used in the chemical mix with propylene glycol, which is found in antifreeze. Critics content the chemical cocktail is a gateway to cigarettes and their eventual use by minors. Among the concerns cited about the device are the unknown dangers of second-hand nicotine and the dangers of propylene glycol, which is found in antifreeze and food additives. Critics contend that e-cigarettes are a gateway to cigarettes and their eventual use by minors.
There’s even disagreement among users and nonusers about the smell that the vapor of e-cigarettes emits, especially when used indoors.
Questions about the use of e-cigarettes on the University of Dallas campus generated mixed reactions from students and professors about e-cigarettes’ use and the extent of regulation – if any — that should be enacted. Among questions raised during interviews: Should the school treat e-cigarette the same as cigarettes? Should UD ban them from classrooms or the cafeteria? Should UD leave it to the professors to decide whether to permit e-cigarettes use during class?
Anyone who vapes on campus or in the city should not be concerned about the City of Irving taking action anytime soon to regulate e-cigarettes. Teresa Adrian, code enforcement director for Irving, said the council considered any limits on the use of e-cigarettes as a threat to private businesses interests.
UD does not have rules that deal with e-cigarettes but it does follow the city of Irving’s rules about cigarette usage in and around public buildings. Dr. John Plotts, vice President for Enrollment and Student Affairs, said that “if the City of Irving takes action regarding e-cigarettes, we will mirror their actions on campus.”
He also added a cautionary note by saying that does not mean UD could not take action independent of the city of Irving. Plotts said Student Life has discussed e-cigarettes and “we have not decided to take any action at this point until more information regarding them can be obtained.”
A threshold for their use could be approaching. While the UD administration has no rules concerning e-cigarette use in classrooms, some professors permit their use in class. Dr. Samuel Weston, a professor of economics, has used an e-cigarette and does not object to their use in class. But that should be up to each professor, Weston said.
He said that while some people might find the smell of vapor offensive it is not much different from strong cologne or perfume.
Dr. Sally Hicks, a physics professor, said students “should not be smoking e-cigarettes in class.” She also said that until it’s known if they are actually harmless, users of e-cigarettes “should abide by the same rules as smokers.”
Students who vape and those who don’t voiced similar opinions about regulation, due In large part to the inclusive research on e-cigarettes. “I don’t feel like it is something dangerous to the extent that it should be banned from all public places or indoor places like bars or clubs,” said John Owen, a senior classics major who uses e-cigarettes.
Logan Thompson, a sophomore business major who switched to e-cigarettes for health reasons, said, “I believe in a very strong rule. if you can’t smoke (regular cigarettes) somewhere don’t vape there.” He has been using an e-cigarette for several years and said he researched them intensively ahead of taking his first drag because it was important to know what he was putting in his body. He said he has reduced his nicotine intake over the years and hopes eventually to eliminate nicotine. However, once he reaches that point he intends to continue using his e-cigarette without the nicotine. Why? He enjoys it as a hobby.
Andrew Rosenbloom simply disagrees with smoking bans. He said he is fine if professors ban e-cigarettes in their classrooms, but “I think that a campus wide ban is ridiculous because it doesn’t affect the academic environment.” He also said e-cigarettes should not be banned inside buildings because that’s one of their main attractions.
All three cited cost, health factors and the lack of an enduring odor from nicotine and smoke on one’s clothes and hair as reasons for switching to e-cigarettes. Thompson said, “I was spending $35 a week on cigarettes and I spend about $12 a month to vape.” Many of those who switched to e-cigarettes want to eliminate their nicotine intake. Therefore, a user can buy cartridges with varying amounts of nicotine. Rosenbloom said he hopes to reach the point where he does not use an e-cigarette: “I don’t want to have that oral fixation.”
Charles Turner, a junior business major and at onetime a firm advocate of only old fashioned smokes, said he changed his mind after friends switched to e-cigarettes. He said they are in the process of reducing their nicotine intake and e-cigarettes themselves are more pleasant without the lasting smell or aftertaste.
Alex Lemke, a nonsmoker and senior chemistry major, said that sight of what he thought was someone smoking indoors initially disturbed him. But no longer. He isn’t troubled if someone uses an e-cigarettes indoors because “it eliminates the divide between smokers and non-smokers in social settings.”
Rebecca Espinoza, a junior Spanish major, and Maria Jose Herrera, a junior human sciences major, disagree. Espinoza is opposed to the use of e-cigarettes in a building and “my major opposition is to (their use) in class.” Herrera took it a step farther, saying, “It just bothers me to see people smoke where they aren’t supposed to.”
One thing is certain: while it’s unclear if the use of e-cigarettes will increase on campus, there’s no doubt that the battle lines between advocates and opponents won’t diminish. The arguments put forward today on either side of the issue may determine the future of e-cigarettes on the UD campus. Plotts said “the Office of Student Life will be researching this over the summer and create a policy for next fall.”