By THOMAS HARTWELL
Kennesaw State University was declared a smoke-free campus on Oct. 1 as part of a no-smoking movement affecting more than 1,400 campuses nationwide as well as all campuses in the University System of Georgia.
According to the Americans for Nonsmokers’ Rights Web page, 976 of the 1,478 U.S. campuses are completely tobacco-free, and 292 prohibit the use of electronic cigarettes on campus. These numbers show a steady increase in smoke-free campuses over the past four years. In October 2010, there were 446 smoke-free campuses nationwide and 568 smoke-free campuses the following year. All schools in the University System of Georgia have also included e-cigarettes in the new smoking ban.
The inclusion of e-cigarettes in the USG smoking ban has met strong resistance from many KSU students and residents. Many of the students say they don’t know why a smoking ban includes a product that produces a smokeless vapor.
J’Lynn Lewis, a resident assistant at KSU, has seen much of this resistance firsthand.
“When I’ve had to enforce the no-smoking policy for e-cigarettes, I’m always told that the e-cigarettes have no smoke or tobacco and aren’t harmful to bystanders,” said Lewis. “I always just have to tell them that it’s policy, and the argument usually goes on and on.”
Cody Kalambaheti, a junior at KSU, argues the e-cigarette ban’s reasoning even further than most students, calling it ridiculous and discriminatory.
“It discriminates against a habit that lots of students have. Now, if we don’t live on campus and we smoke, we’re forced off campus several times a day,” said Kalambaheti.
He argues that the USG is preventing students from developing healthier habits by disallowing a potential “bridge to quitting.” Kalambaheti calls e-cigarettes a bridge because the item still has nicotine, but no tobacco and no smoke.
An e-cigarette has an internal atomizer, which heats a flavored liquid—often called “e-juice”—inside the body of the e-cigarette to its boiling point, producing vapor. This e-juice vapor is where the nicotine and flavor come from. The potentially harmful part of the e-cigarette comes from the chemicals in the e-juice. Some of the chemicals listed include propylene glycol, glycerin, terpineol and methylfurfural.
Some concern still lies in the fact that e-cigarettes are not regulated and therefore, producers are not required to list all included ingredients.
Still, Kalambaheti points out that there are other harmful chemicals used on a wider scale than e-cigarettes.
“Perfumes and colognes have potentially dangerous carcinogens in them,” said Kalambaheti. “The cologne that I wear every day is more dangerous to a bystander than the steam from my e-cig.”
Despite all of the arguments and protest, KSU officials are upholding the ban and have become quite accustomed to answering the question, “Why e-cigarettes?”
Dr. Michael Sanseviro, the dean of student success at KSU, was happy to make a statement. Sanseviro said in an email interview that e-cigarette use is highest among college students and the risks are not non-existent, as many suggest.
“Information from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Food and Drug Administration raised concern about the health risks of these products, and recently some within the tobacco industry have raised questions about e-cigarettes,” Sanseviro said. “While it may be used as an aid to quit smoking, it is still a highly concentrated source of addictive nicotine, and it has not been regulated or studied enough to support claims for tobacco cessation.”
Sanseviro went on to say that e-cigarettes pollute the air and can even have effects similar to cigarette smoking, such as lung inflammation, on the body. He also referenced a recent CDC study linking e-cigarettes to a dramatic increase in calls to poison centers nationwide over the past three years.
Over the past year, the FDA has proposed new regulations on e-cigarettes, including age restrictions. The e-cigarette market still continues to climb with sales reaching more than $2 billion in 2013.
“E-cigs are popular. Sometimes because people want to keep smoking and it’s healthier, and sometimes because they’re trying to quit,” said Kalambaheti. “Either way, I’m going to find a way to support our ability to use them.”