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COC student government gathering student input on e-cigarettes

Safety of battery-powered, vapor-based devices still under scrutiny

Posted: October 26, 2013 5:03 p.m.
Updated: October 26, 2013 5:03 p.m.

SANTA CLARITA - Facing an industry that is rapidly rising in popularity nationwide and locally, the student government at College of the Canyons is examining whether to subject battery-powered electronic cigarettes to the same rules on campus as conventional ones.

Electronic cigarettes, commonly referred to as e-cigarettes, are devices that provide doses of nicotine or other additives to the user in aerosol form, typically as a vapor.

“We have seen an increasing number of students using these e-cigarettes in very public places,” said Fernando Vasquez, the president of the COC Associated Student Government.

Vasquez’s observations fit with a nationwide trend. According to data released in September by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the percentage of U.S. middle and high school students who use electronic cigarettes more than doubled from 2011 to 2012.

Polling students
To address the matter, representatives from COC’s student government met with the college’s Board of Trustees on Wednesday to discuss whether to place the devices under the same restrictions as cigarettes under COC’s no-smoking policy at some point in the future.

“This item was actually brought to us by the student government, and they made a presentation on the problems with electronic smoking,” said board member Bruce Fortine. “It was a very interesting discussion.”

The COC smoking policy approved a few years back restricted smoking to some parking lots and away from buildings.

Fortine said he had never actually seen an e-cigarette until he saw a student using one when he was on his way to the board room for Wednesday’s meeting.

“It was very fitting,” he said.

Vasquez said the student government next plans to survey students about e-cigarettes.

“We’re going to be conducting surveys with our students and see if they’re in support of amending the policy” to include the vapor versions of cigarettes, he said.

For Vasquez, the benefits of such a move are obvious.

“I happen to believe that any type of smoke that you put in your body is absolutely harmful and it’s definitely a health concern here on campus,” he said.

National efforts
While the primary and secondhand health impacts of e-cigarettes are still being studied, officials say use of the device correlates to higher use of traditional cigarettes.

A CDC study found that 76.3 percent of middle and high school students who used e-cigarettes in a 30-day period also smoked conventional cigarettes in the same period.

“About 90 percent of all smokers begin smoking as teenagers,” said Dr. Tim McAfee, director of the CDC Office on Smoking and Health, said in a news release. “We must keep our youth from experimenting or using any tobacco product.

“These dramatic increases suggest that developing strategies to prevent marketing, sales, and use of e-cigarettes among youth is critical.”

The devices are largely unregulated by the national Food and Drug Administration, but the agency has recently announced it plans to expand its jurisdiction over tobacco products to include e-cigarettes, according to a news release.

“These data show a dramatic rise in usage of e-cigarettes by youth, and this is cause for great concern as we don’t yet understand the long-term effects of these novel tobacco products,” said Mitch Zeller, director of FDA’s Center for Tobacco Products.

“These findings reinforce why the FDA intends to expand its authority over all tobacco products and establish a comprehensive and appropriate regulatory framework to reduce disease and death from tobacco use,” Zeller said.

Because the devices are not regulated at this point, the companies that make them are not presently beholden to the same restrictions as manufacturers of normal cigarettes, restrictions that include a banning of television advertising for the industry.

Such restrictions could severely impact an industry that has grown exponentially in the past few years. The National Association of Attorneys General, which recently sent a signed document from the attorneys general of 40 states urging the FDA to act against the devices, estimated that sales of e-cigarettes could reach $1.7 billion this year.
On Twitter @LukeMMoney




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