Section: News

Student Council tables discussion of e-cigarette ban

Student Council tables discussion of e-cigarette ban

Jake Smith '16 said he found e-cigarettes a healthy alternative to regular cigarettes

By Gabe Brison-Trezise

On March 4, the same day Ohio Governor John Kasich signed a bill banning the sale of electronic cigarettes, or e-cigarettes, to minors, the Mount Vernon City Schools Board of Education announced it had revised its district-wide smoking ban to include the controversial product.

E-cigarettes contain a battery that powers the vaporization of a nicotine-containing liquid, which the user then inhales. The College’s policy on the emergent device is not entirely clear.

“I don’t know that they fit in anywhere at the moment,” Dean of Students Hank Toutain said, a day after Student Council discussed e-cigarette use at Kenyon at its meeting last Sunday. The body concluded it was a non-issue, according to Council President Kevin Pan ’15. “It’s not something that we’re going to bother with right now,” he said.
Toutain added, “I think we’re still trying to make some informed decisions which are consistent with rules and regulations we have elsewhere but also take into account anything that’s significantly different about e-cigarettes.”

Among those differences may be more benign emissions. Smoking, or “vaping,” e-cigarettes produces vapor clouds free of the tar and carbon monoxide that afflict conventional tobacco products, a fact that attracted Jake Smith ’16 to the product.

“I saw e-cigarettes as a healthy alternative to experiencing nicotine, which is a drug that I’m fond of and I feel like helps me stabilize my mood and my anxiety,” said Smith, who began using cigarettes last year during finals week as a way to manage stress and later switched to e-cigarettes.

As far as regulating them, however, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has encountered various legal obstacles to regulating the transport and sale of the products, but noted on its website that when it “conducted limited laboratory studies of certain samples, FDA found significant quality issues that indicate that quality control processes used to manufacture these products are substandard or non-existent.”

“We really don’t know how safe they are, especially for young people,” Mount Vernon City Schools Board of Education President Dr. Margie Bennett said. Bennett broached the issue with the rest of the Board after reading various articles questioning the devices’ safety.

Kenyon’s current smoking policy, which prohibits smoking indoors or within 15 feet of buildings, appears to cover all forms of the act — which could include using e-cigarettes. The policy’s first sentence, however, refers to the negative effect of second-hand smoke on nonsmokers — a concern that doesn’t necessarily apply to e-cigarettes.
“I guess there is a kind of gray area,” Pan said. “I’ve seen people smoke them indoors. That might be a little questionable.”

Smith noted that, while Campus Safety instructed him not to use his e-cigarette indoors, “No one’s going to be able to prove that you were smoking it indoors because it’s just water vapor that you’re breathing out.”

According to Toutain, e-cigarette use has not posed any major problems for the College, though Smith thinks they are on the rise on campus. “To my knowledge we haven’t received complaints about e-cigarettes,” Toutain said. “I think we’re going to do what we typically do in situations like this, which is to try to have a thoughtful, well-informed conversation that precedes the establishment of a policy or a rule or a regulation.”

Smith thinks e-cigarettes have “great potential for being a healthy alternative to smoking,” but hopes the FDA is able to make progress regulating them. “I think the sooner the FDA starts to regulate electronic cigarette juice, the healthier it’ll be as a hobby,” he said.

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