Illustration by Eric Hadley/The Collegian
Illustration by Eric Hadley/The Collegian

TCC needs to define a policy for electronic cigarettes so students, faculty and police have a set of rules to follow and enforce.

The popularity of e-cigarettes has risen recently as some claim they are a safer alternative to traditional cigarettes and smokeless tobacco. This rise in popularity has brought them onto TCC campuses.

The problem is e-cigarettes, which do not contain tobacco, are not defined in the district’s tobacco policy, which says tobacco users must sit in their cars or leave campus to smoke or use any form of tobacco. All the while, e-cigarette users are free to puff away on campus, even in buildings.

In a recent article in The Collegian, students, faculty and staff expressed mixed concerns over the use of electronic cigarettes and the lack of policy on them.

Some expressed concern over the lack of data regarding the health risk involved and the lack of government regulation. This is a real concern. It takes years to compile enough data to understand the long-term health risks associated with the use of any substance.

Some studies have shown the presence of ultra-fine particles, which have been known to cause cancer. Other studies show cases where lung damage begins to repair itself once the smoker switches to e-cigarettes and stops smoking tobacco, but there simply isn’t enough data to be certain e-cigarettes are truly a safer alternative.

With no regulation, one can’t be certain of exactly what is being mixed in the juice smoked through the e-cigarette.

One thing is for sure — the juice contains nicotine, so how can it honestly be treated differently than traditional tobacco on TCC campuses?

Some students said they didn’t mind people using them on campus as long as it was not in a building or classroom. While the vapor blown out by the user doesn’t smell near as bad as cigarette smoke, it’s still a big cloud of smoke.

Most flavors are sweet-smelling and could potentially entice people who don’t smoke at all to try them and possibly become a full-fledged nicotine user.

Teachers have reported students attempting to use them in class, and some have actually added a discussion about their use on the first day of the semester when going over the course syllabus and rules.

It is absurd to think it is OK to blow a cloud of smoke out into a classroom. Nonsmokers should not have to deal with the worry of secondhand smoke causing health issues  while sitting in class.

Asking students, faculty and staff to walk to their cars or leave campus to smoke cigarettes seems like an obvious policy decision.

The same can be said for e-cigarettes. It simply is not fair to tell one nicotine user his delivery method isn’t acceptable on campus while another’s is perfectly OK.

Until a policy is put in place, people will continue to walk the halls blowing smoke clouds. Tobacco users will still be forced to march past fellow students happily puffing e-cigarettes on campus to go smoke in their cars.

It is truly unfair.