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April 13, 2015

Policy on e-cigs raises questions on tobacco-free campus

By Shannon Oblak

Walking through the busy hallways of Main Classroom, Jessica Sagester quickly pulls out her electronic cigarette for a smoke, completely unfazed by the tobacco free policy signs plastered around campus.

Cleveland State University’s tobacco free campus policy became effective Fall Semester of 2013. It pertains to all tobacco products, which include but are not limited to, smokeless tobacco, cigarettes and electronic cigarettes.

Even with this current guideline in play, there seems to be some confusion regarding the specifics. Students are still seen smoking e-cigarettes throughout campus, even with it being prohibited in the policy.

Sagester, a communication student, knows the campus is tobacco free, but doesn’t think her smoking is going against the rules.

“My e-cigarette does not contain tobacco so I don’t see any issue in smoking it,” Sagester said.

Sagester is one of many students on campus who believe that — despite Cleveland State’s tobacco free policy — it does not apply to e-cigarettes.

Lisa Sandor, Cleveland State’s health and wellness program administrator, wants students to set the record straight for students on the confusion with the policy.

“We do not allow any electronic cigarettes,” Sandor said. “Whether they haStudents smoking e-cigs on campusve tobacco or not, they are not permitted.”

Much of the confusion among students seems to be that while e-cigarettes feel and look similar to tobacco, they are battery-powered smoking devices that produce vapor, not cigarette smoke.

Most of these devices work by having a heating element that atomizes a liquid solution know as e-liquids. These e-liquids contain a mixture of propylene glycol, glycerin, nicotine and flavorings. There are also similar products that do not contain nicotine at all.

Law professor Stephen Lazarus clarified the specificity of the policy rules a bit further.

“What is actionable in student affairs would be based on what the actual rule says, not the overall policy,” Lazarus said.

Even though the overall policy is stated as “Tobacco Free Campus,” e-cigarettes are included in the actual rule.

If a student is found to be smoking on campus, university police would approach them, according to Sergeant Thomas Jones of the Cleveland State Police Department.

“We first ask the person to put out the cigarette and we make a log of it,” Jones said. “If the problem persists, it usually is taken to judicial affairs and is handled from there.”

In judicial affairs, any student accused of violating the code will be given the right to answer to any informal charges during an impartial hearing. Each student is given the option between an administrative hearing or a university Judicial Board hearing.

A student conduct officer, who is appointed by the Provost, conducts the administrative hearing. The university Judicial Board hearing is run by two faculty members appointed by the Faculty Senate and seven students.

Aude Fragapane, an environmental science major, believes that smoking e-cigarettes has helped him live a better lifestyle.

“With e-cigarettes I can feel my body becoming healthier now that I am not smoking a pack a day,” Fragapane said. “It helped me as a habit kicker, while also giving me a new hobby.”

E-cigarettes are becoming more and more popular as people try to use them as a way to quit smoking actual cigarettes. A common belief is that they are a healthy alternative. However, they haven’t been around long enough to completely justify that statement, according to some medical professionals.

Cigarettes have effects that include lung cancer and heart disease, and those who smoke are twice as likely to develop skin cancer.

Dr. Richard Matkaluk, who specializes in dermatology in San Diego, Calif., explains it is too early to tell much about the effects of e-cigarettes.

“I don’t believe they have been around long enough to have good studies addressing concerns about long term safety issues,” Matkaluk said. “They are basically a nicotine delivery system.”

Maranda Neundorf, a journalism and promotional communication major, sees a fun side in e-cigarettes.

“I’ve never been a smoker, but I enjoy e-cigs,” Neundorf said. “It’s fun to pick out all the different flavors.”

Another benefit to e-cigarettes over cigarettes is that it has created a community of support within itself. Fragapane, as stated earlier, said it has helped him become healthier and create a better habit.

“It’s become this huge community that supports you for no longer smoking cigarettes,” Fragapane said. “It’s an awesome support system to see unfold and become actual friends.”

While there are many different opinions on electronic cigarettes, the rule stands the same — smoking of electronic cigarettes on the Cleveland State campus is not allowed.