Lack of e-cigarette research prompts questions of health effects, UA smoking policy
A lack of research and knowledge has led some faculty and students to question whether electronic cigarettes should be banned from campus.
Electronic cigarettes, commonly known as e-cigarettes, are battery-operated devices that contain nicotine and are commonly used to replace traditional cigarettes. While the UA’s smoking policy doesn’t specifically address e-cigarettes, it prohibits smoking 25 feet from buildings in accordance with state law.
The Arizona Student Unions smoking policy states that smoking, both e-cigarettes and tobacco, is only allowed in designated smoking areas at the Student Union Memorial Center and at Park Student Union.
E-cigarette advertisements boast the gadgets’ ability to wean people off of real cigarettes, but Dr. Myra Muramoto, professor and senior vice head of family and community medicine, said she believes otherwise.
Photo illustration by Ryan Revock/ The Daily Wildcat
“Studies say these are new products so there hasn’t been a lot of research,” Muramoto said. “But the research that there is actually says they [smokers] are less likely to quit smoking.”
Though the popular idea is that e-cigarettes help addicted smokers change their ways, Muramoto said, it appears they merely lessen the urgency of peoples’ goals to quit.
“It could be that the user starts thinking to themselves that they don’t need to quit because they are technically smoking less,” Muramoto said. “The problem with e-cigarettes is we don’t really know that they’re safer.”
Stephanie Kha, director of the Student Health Advocacy Committee, said she believes non-smokers who are around e-cigarette users won’t be affected by the vapors.
“They’re not really a danger to other people, whereas other students smoking [tobacco products] is affecting other people surrounding the user,” Kha said. “With e-cigarettes containing nicotine, many people could also make the argument that they’re supposed to help people wean off cigarettes, so then they could actually be helpful in that way.”
However, Chris Fuentes, a pre-pharmacy freshman, said he doesn’t think e-cigarettes help people quit and worries that they could potentially harm anyone breathing in the vapors.
“I think we should ban them because they encourage other kids to smoke,” Fuentes said.
Currently, banning e-cigarettes is not a part of the SHAC’s push for a tobacco-free campus. Kha said SHAC will decide if the initiative needs modification only after the Food and Drug Administration discusses the matter further. The FDA’s Center for Tobacco Products does not currently regulate e-cigarettes, but the administration has expressed its intent to extend its authorities to include regulation of e-cigarettes, according to a news release on the FDA website.
“My personal opinion on e-cigarettes is neither for nor against at this point because I can see the pros and cons of them,” Kha said. “Until the FDA makes a statement on the conclusions that they have then I can’t actually say that they’re bad for your health.”