Ohio State’s campus-wide tobacco ban includes at least one product that uses no tobacco at all, but its mimicked appearance has OSU officials asking students, faculty and staff to keep e-cigarettes off university grounds.
About five percent of students at OSU have been affected by the campus-wide tobacco ban, according to Dr. Peter Shields, deputy director of Wexner Medical Center James Comprehensive Cancer Center.
Shields said most of the questions the hospital, which has been tobacco-free since 2006, gets on the ban are about the enforcement of the ban and on e-cigarettes.
“Electronic cigarettes are included in the ban. Actually, it’s any tobacco product, anything that mimics a tobacco product with tobacco,” Shields said in a meeting with The Lantern Jan. 16.
The campus-wide tobacco ban went into effect Jan. 1 in order to promote healthier life choices among students, faculty, staff and guests of OSU. The campus-wide ban was announced in 2013, and was set to take effect Aug. 1. In August, however, university officials said the ban would not be enforced until 2014.
E-cigarettes are included in the ban because they contain nicotine. The difference between e-cigarettes and regular cigarettes is that they do not contain tobacco, which makes them arguably “healthier,” according to Discovery Fit and Health.
There is a mechanism in e-cigarettes that heats up liquid nicotine, which turns to a vapor that smokers inhale and exhale, like a regular cigarette. E-cigarettes aren’t subject to U.S. tobacco laws because they do not contain tobacco, which means they can be purchased at any age, not just by people over 18.
Clinical studies of e-cigarettes have also not been submitted to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services website, so what chemicals they contain and the overall safety of the product is unknown.
Shields said e-cigarettes might be particularly appealing to children and encourage nicotine addiction at a young age.
“Right now they’re able to be sold to anyone of any age, so an 11-year-old can go in there and get their nicotine (vaporizers) or whatever it is they wanna buy, so these are big issues and so in my mind until they’re proven as a cessation method, they don’t fight tobacco use,” Shields said.
He also said younger people smoking is a problem because it can become an addiction.
“It’s really an adolescent disease,” Shields said of smoking. “I mean, most times people start smoking (at) 11 years old, 12 years old, 14 years old, 15 years old, but it takes years to get really addicted and it’s during the college years that really some people get cemented.”
Some OSU students who use e-cigarettes said they don’t mind OSU’s ban of the product.
Michael Moline, a fourth-year in strategic communication who uses e-cigarettes, said he understands and appreciates what OSU is doing and will continue to abide by and support the regulation.
“It’s definitely a change,” Moline said. “I’ve found ways to keep my personal habit away from campus.”
Moline said he uses his device at home.
OSU is not alone in its ban, as other Big Ten schools have similar policies. The University of Illinois, Indiana University, University of Iowa, University of Michigan and Purdue University also have campus smoking bans, and the University of Minnesota has a smoking ban set to take effect July 1.
Iowa has had a ban in place since 2008, and the university is currently determining if e-cigarettes should be banned in addition to cigarettes, said Iowa spokesman Tom Moore.
Minnesota’s proposed ban would include e-cigarettes from the start, according to the Minnesota Daily, though no official policy has been announced for the university.
Shields stressed that OSU’s ban relies on a peer pressure form of enforcement. That means that if someone is seen using tobacco products on campus, there is not a definitive punishment. People are expected to merely tell the person using the product to stop and educate them on the ban. However, there are mechanisms to enforce the policy if the person does not listen.
“It goes to the department chair if someone reports (a faculty member). The department chair calls them in and says, ‘You can’t really smoke here,’ and if they still do, then it goes up to the dean with Human Resources and people stop smoking,” Shields said.
Reported violations of the tobacco ban will be handled by the Office of Human Resources, not University Police.
OSU has spent about $43,000 of its $100,000 tobacco ban signage budget to make sure campus visitors remember to put out their cigarettes. Signs have been placed outside several university buildings, including the Ohio Union, and banners have been hung in parking garages.
Aaron Miller, a third-year in agriscience education, used to use dip but has started using e-cigarettes, though he said he’s even begun moving away from those since the campus ban started. He said the ban has affected him as a user of tobacco products.
“Using smokeless tobacco is 100 percent a personal choice,” Miller said. “It affects no one except the user.”
Miller said he has had to find different areas to continue his habit.
“I don’t agree with these changes,” Miller said. “College is a chance to grow up and I feel like this ban is not helpful for ensuring a healthier campus. A lot more people get hurt fighting in drunken brawls than do from putting a good dip in.”