When enforcing the campus smoking ban, do not overlook e-cigarettes

Decades ago, you may have seen students on college campuses across the country standing outside residence halls and classrooms smoking cigarettes. While that image is mostly in the past, students have taken on a new type of smoking that replaces the taste of cigarette smoke with flavors like mint, cherry and even nacho cheese.

Vaping, or smoking electronic cigarettes, has become increasingly popular among students. Not unlike chugging alcohol, this activity is both dangerous and trendy on college campuses. Now that vaping has become more popular among students, the existing smoking ban on campus should be enforced to protect students from harmful effects of these products.

While vaping is becoming more common, the number of students smoking old-fashioned tobacco cigarettes has continued to decline. In 2014, a study by the University of Michigan found that only 12 percent of college students were occasional cigarette smokers. In 1999, it was 31 percent, marking a 19 percent decrease in 15 years.

It is widely known that conventional cigarettes pose many dangers for their users. Since 1966, all cigarette boxes have been mandated to post a label from the U.S. Surgeon General warning consumers that smoking can cause lung cancer, heart disease, emphysema and complications with pregnancy.

But, the rejection of tobacco does not mean that students are shunning smoking altogether. E-cigarettes are often spun as a healthier alternative for young adults. Administrators should further enforce the ban on e-cigarettes and fellow students should implore users to quit for their own good as these devices pose many of the same dangers as traditional cigarettes.

Many young people consider vaping or using e-cigarettes to be a safer alternative to cigarettes, but that is simply not true. E-cigarettes, unless labeled nicotine free, contain liquid nicotine instead of tobacco, which still poses dangerous health risks like addiction and carcinogen absorption.

The staff at Pennsylvania State University’s Milton S. Hershey Medical Center have carefully outlined the risks of vaping, which include similar effects to that of smoking traditional cigarettes, including lung disease, chronic bronchitis and addiction. Some e-cigarettes even include toxic ingredients like antifreeze, formaldehyde and vapor that contains carcinogens.

GW officially banned all cigarettes on campus, including the electronic variety, in 2013. But students have ways of easily concealing these banned devices. Juul e-cigarettes are designed to resemble a flash drive, while other brands closely resemble pens. These cigarettes also do not emit the smell that regular cigarettes do, making them more difficult to detect. GW may have banned the use of e-cigarettes on paper, but it must watch out for the many ways students can hide these devices.

For many young adults, vaping may appear to be a trendier and safer replacement for smoking regular cigarettes. However, this habit does not come without numerous negative consequences including lung disease, addiction and an increased likelihood of turning to regular cigarettes. It is imperative that officials and students enforce GW’s smoke-free policy, especially as e-cigarettes rise in popularity.

Diana Wallens, a senior majoring in criminal justice and political science, is a Hatchet opinions writer.

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