Cigarette alternative poses questions about health and campus smoking policies

Rachel Norris, Staff Writer

E-cigarettes made their first appearance on store shelves in 2006, but have taken the market by storm in the past couple of years, according to the Associated Press.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released a study on Sept. 5, which found that in the United States, the number of smokers who have tried e-cigarettes doubled to one-in-five in 2011.

“This industry is designed to hook you and make you become an addict,” said Cosumnes River College’s head nurse Michelle Barkley. “It replaces a habit, and if you want to break it, there are other alternatives to quit.”

According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, e-cigarettes are a combination of drug-device products designed to deliver nicotine or other substances to a user in the form of a vapor. The FDA does not consider e-cigarettes to be tobacco products.

Barkley went on to describe the health implications of e-cigarettes and said that “second-hand vaping” leads to exhalation of smaller particles, which after only five minutes of use can lead to a decreased function in the lungs.

The chemical composition of the e-cigarette vapor contains nicotine, propylene glycol, glycerol, methanol, volatile organic compounds, tobacco specific carcinogens and heavy metals, according to the California Conference of Local Health Officers.

There are 13 designated smoking areas on CRC’s campus, which Barkley said are the only places e-cigarettes are allowed to be smoked.

“There is absolutely no smoking them in the classrooms. It’s a distraction that takes away from learning and it’s still smoking,” Barkley said.

Michelle Bueso, an 18-year-old ultrasound technician major, expressed her views on e-cigarettes being smoked in classrooms.

“I feel like they should be allowed to be smoked in the class, but if someone sat next to me and started smoking one I would be distracted because that’s all I can concentrate on is them putting the cigarette in their mouth and blowing the smoke,” Bueso said.

Briana Paris, a 17-year-old nursing major agrees with Bueso on the issue of e-cigarettes being smoked in classes on campus.

“I would get up and move if someone sat next to me and started smoking one,” Paris said. “I also think that e-cigarettes are giving teenagers more of a reason to start smoking cigarettes.”

Starbucks banned smoking e-cigarettes within 25 feet of any Starbucks coffee shop in May, but if the law allows smoking on city streets, there is no way of enforcing the rule, according to Starbucks spokeswoman Jaime Lynn Riley.

While Barkley said she is pro-health, she shared her sympathy with people who are trying to quit smoking.

“Smokers are dealing with an addiction, and in no way should a smoker ever feel disrespected,” Barkley said. “But if you’re wanting to break the habit, then e-cigarettes are not the best choice.”