No plans to change e-cigarette policy on campus

There are no plans to change campus policy towards e-cigarettes in spite of bans on them happening across Canada, according to Dave Roger, the Health and Safety Officer of Durham College and UOIT.

Electronic cigarettes are a product in the form of a normal cigarette, and are powered by battery. A heating source is contained inside and produces vapour from what is held within the cartridge, be it nicotine or other liquids and flavourings.

According to Roger, the e-cigarette policy is the same as any other smoke related product on campus grounds. Smokers must be 30 feet away from campus entrances for both the university and the college.

Currently, no plans exist for e-cigarettes to be banned on campus property, though he says it is the desire of both the administrations of Durham College and UOIT for the campus to one day become smoke-free. But until more information is available, he says the college and university will be taking a wait and see approach when it comes to altering the policy concerning e-cigarettes.

The long-term health effect of e-cigarettes remains unclear. According to Sue Cockburn-Gillespie, a public nurse with Durham Region Health Department, the negative effects of using the product may include damage to lung health and function, chronic wheezing, chest tightness, and second-hand vapour. Limited studies also show-increased headaches and respiratory symptoms like dry throat, and dry cough.

“I think they appeal to youth more than anything because they are flavoured and so that does tend to be what the youth really want,” she says. “The other part of that is it can lead to nicotine addiction.”

Over the last two years, e-cigarettes have become increasingly popular with users, sellers, and some in the public health community, who tout the products as safer than regular cigarettes and claim it helps deal with tobacco addiction.

For instance, a study conducted by the British Journal of General Practice, found that use of an e-cigarette increases the odds of remaining abstinent by 60 per cent, asserting 54,000 lives in the United Kingdom could be saved if nine million smokers used e-cigarettes instead of regular cigarettes.

Right now e-cigarettes can be bought in retail stores, making them more accessible than regular cigarettes because no legislative restrictions on selling e-cigarettes exist with the exception of those that contain nicotine.

Cockburn-Gillespie sees this as a concern, saying that by allowing them in public places, workspaces, or campuses, it normalizes e-cigarettes and could lead to an increase in the social exposure to smoking, something the provincial government has been trying to reduce for years.

“If people are trying to quit it could undermine their attempts and also promote relapse in many people,” Cockburn-Gillespie said. “I think people may be thinking that this is a easier way to deal with whatever their issue is, that it’s safe and only vapour and not hurt other people around me but we still don’t know what the effects are.”

Cockburn-Gillespie cautions that until more research is done the actual safety of e-cigarettes remains unknown, a feeling Roger agrees with when it comes to using e-cigarettes to quit smoking.

“People who are considering using e-cigarettes or are using them, should be diligent in finding out what the risks are because I’m safe in saying there are risks,” he said. “If they’re using them as a bridge to become a non-tobacco user then I would encourage them to minimize the amount of time they’re using them to become smoke free.”