BY NICOLE VERDUIN & DEREK ALLEN
Posted at the entrances to every building at the County College of Morris are familiar signs of a symbol of a smoldering cigarette with a red cross through it, over headed by big block letters stating “This is a smoke free school.” In even bigger block letters underneath that are the words “SMOKING PROHIBITED.”
Clearly, from looking at these signs, smoking cigarettes on campus isn’t allowed. However, the signs don’t have any specifications about electronic cigarettes. Some students think a clear distinction is needed.
“I think the signs should include ‘No Vapor Products’ or ‘No Electronic Cigarettes’ on them,” said Joe Webster, a music technology major at CCM.
Webster was outside of DeMare Hall smoking his electronic cigarette when he was approached by a public safety officer, who immediately wrote him a $75 ticket.
“I didn’t even know this was a rule,” Webster said. “This is my first semester here. I tried to explain to him that it’s not a tobacco product, there’s no smoke coming out, it’s just vapor. I was like, can you let me off with a warning? He said ‘No, we can’t tolerate this happening.’ Honestly, if I got a warning I would just go down to the parking lot if I needed to use it. I’m not trying to break rules.”
CCM’s smoking policy is roughly the same as the N.J. smoke-free air act, a state law prohibiting the smoking of any kind indoors in public places. The difference is that at CCM the rules extend to the entire campus, inside and out. Electronic cigarettes were added to the smoking policy for CCM in May of 2012, taking its definition of what smoking is from the state law.
In a recent survey of 551 students conducted by the Student Government Association, approximately 64 percent felt that use of these apparatuses violated the smoking policy. However, 66 percent of those surveyed also felt that the college’s policy regarding electronic cigarettes was too strict, and should be relaxed.
The Dean of Students, Janique Caffie, explained that electronic cigarettes are held to the same standard as their tobacco-based counterparts.
“What people have to understand is we have this policy on campus,” Caffie said. “Anything that emits a vapor or is a tobacco product is not permitted to be used on campus grounds. Has this been the easiest policy to enforce? Absolutely not.”
Caffie said that the smoking policy is made clear at New Student Orientations and at the beginning of each semester when the Office of Campus Life sends out a link to the student handbook with the policy therein.
“To say that the college is required to indicate every substance and every item that is included under the no smoking banner,” Caffie said. “It doesn’t make sense. There are enough signs on campus. All we want is students to just abide by the policy and smoke in the appropriate place: in their car or off campus.”
A scarier statistic revealed by the SGA’s survey is that only about 36 percent of students consider vaporizers and e-cigarettes to be harmful to one’s health. This number is representative of the opinion of the general public, and serves as a contributing factor to the devices’ recent rise in popularity. Originally intended to aid cigarette smokers in the quitting process, vaporizers have been largely misunderstood as having insignificant health risks, and have become a popular smoking platform for previous non-smokers.
According to an article on Science News, vaporizers offer the user a greater chance of contracting asthma, stroke, heart disease, and even diabetes. In addition to containing nicotine, the solvents used in electronic cigarettes and vaporizers can turn into carbonyls in the body (including formaldehyde and carcinogens), which can in turn, cause cancer.