Campus tobacco ban includes electronic cigarettes

Nicole Stiles

While many universities continue to grapple with unclear policies regarding recently popular electronic cigarettes, UT set a clear ban on them during the 2012 tobacco-free initiative. 

Adrienne Howarth-Moore, director of UT’s Human Resource Services, said the decision to include other smoking devices that do not directly use tobacco, including e-cigarettes, in the tobacco-free campus initiative was based in part on the unknown potential health risks e-cigarettes pose to nonsmokers.

“E-cigarettes are not currently regulated by the FDA and there is not sufficient safety information available to address bystanders’ concerns of being exposed to e-cigarette vapors,” Howarth-Moore said. ”The University benchmarked the definition used by other institutions already tobacco free and consulted with the Austin Travis County Health and Human Services Department.”

Howarth-Moore said banning e-cigarettes was part of the stipulation for tobacco-free campus funding from the Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas, or CPRIT.

“CPRIT does include e-cigarettes as a prohibited item for purposes of certifying an entity as meeting their tobacco free criteria,” Howarth-Moore said. “To allow e-cigarettes would jeopardize CPRIT funding.”

According to Howarth-Moore, there was a student survey given in 2011 about opinions toward cigarettes on campus, but there was never a similar survey for e-cigarettes. Howarth-Moore said the ban on e-cigarettes was approved by representatives from multiple organization on campus, including Student Government, Staff Council and Faculty Council.

English junior Alexa Capareda said she doesn’t think e-cigarettes are bothersome in the same way as regular cigarettes. But she said when people are allowed to smoke them in enclosed spaces, it can be uncomfortable.

“They don’t smell so they aren’t as bad, but I saw someone smoking one on the bus and it caught me off guard,” Capareda said. “Maybe people shouldn’t be allowed to smoke them in enclosed spaces, like on a bus.”

Elysse Alvarado, international and global relations junior, said she believes e-cigarettes do not seem to be a problem on campus.

“I’ve never seen anyone smoking an electronic cigarette, I didn’t even know they were banned,” Alvarado said.

Aaron Dugan, part owner of smoke shop Austin City Vapors on Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard, said having an on-campus ban on e-cigarettes has not been detrimental to business.

“I don’t feel like the ban has affected business because this is something that people are using to quit,” Dugan said. “If they want to quit, they are going to use it.”