MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — When West Virginia University’s Board of Governors convene Friday, they’ll face before them an action item to add more stringent tobacco control policies on campus.
The BOG received 30 comments during the public comment period, as they prepare to consider a more strictly enforced on-campus tobacco policy that also includes language restricting use of electronic cigarettes on campus.
Comments ranged across a wide spectrum, including those in full support, those who support the measure but wish to see stricter enforcement, those who support the measure but hoped for a compromise, and those who opposed the measure entirely.
“This is the worst rule I’ve ever heard,” reads one comment opposed to the ban. “The campus currently does absolutely nothing to enforce its tobacco free campus policy so why even waste the effort to amend the rule to ban all types of smoking. Another reason this rule is outrageous is many people like myself use e cigarettes as a way to ease out of smoking cigarettes. They are extremely beneficial devices that allow one to choose their nicotine level and lower it over time to eventually drop the habit. I think this rule is a huge mistake and might even lead to more tobacco smokers/users on campus.”
Additional commenters also feel — even with stricter enforcement guidelines — the rule remains unenforceable.
“While I believe this proposition to be a good idea, I don’t see it being followed by students around campus,” the comment reads. “Electronic smoking devices became popular last year so most people have a form of it and buy what they need practically on campus. They aren’t going to stop smoking on campus because for the most part it is a concealable device making it harder to get caught. If they do get in trouble it’s going to go around campus putting the school in the hot seat because most students will disagree with the provision. Again it’s a good idea but the timing is not right.
Sarah Lawver, Director of Advocacy in West Virginia for the American Lung Association, said WVU deserves praise for its willingness to adopt more effective tobacco policy control.
“What we know is that weak tobacco control policies do not work, and strong tobacco policies save lives,” she said. “These policies must be completely comprehensive to counter the devastating effects that tobacco has on West Virginia.”
Lawver said much of the need for greater implementation centers around secondhand smoke, smoke that has been exhaled or breathed out by the person smoking.
“The U.S. Surgeon General has concluded that there is no safe level of exposure to secondhand smoke,” she said. “Opportunities for better health begin where people work, live, and play. A person shouldn’t have to be exposed to the dangers of secondhand smoke just to get an education while being on campus or to put food on the table if they work on campus.”
West Virginia University has been on the forefront of research indicating that electronic cigarettes — also known as vaping — do have negative health effects. Lawver said the main concern is that e-cigarettes are not regulated as strictly as traditional cigarettes.
“Almost all e-cigarettes do contain nicotine,” Lawver said. “The FDA has found that even some brands that say they don’t have any nicotine actually do. For example, Juul, which is now the most commonly used e-cigarette, claims to have as much one nicotine in one pod as an entire pack of cigarettes.”
In a traditional cigarette, the Center for Disease Control said secondhand smoke can contain more than 7,000 chemicals.
“Secondhand smoke is a serious health hazard,” Lawver said. “It causes more than 41,000 deaths per year. It can cause and make worse a wide range of damaging health effects in children and adults.”
She said e-cigarettes offer a similar secondhand hazard.
“Secondhand e-cigarette emissions are created when an e-cigarette user exhales the chemical cocktail created by e-cigarettes,” she said. “In 2016, the U.S. Surgeon General concluded that secondhand emissions contained nicotine, ultra-fine particles, flavorings like diaceytl — a chemical linked to a serious lung disease — and many, many other chemicals there.”
The West Virginia Board of Governors meet Friday, Feb. 8 at 8:30 a.m.