By CHRISTIAN PRANZO
UT had four designated smoking zones across campus in the past three years. Smokers found themselves outside Straz Hall in close proximity to the baseball field or by the Hillsborough River as they listened to the crashing of waves caused by passing boats. Other smoking locations were in the space between McKay and MacDonald-Kelce library and Delo Park adjacent to Austin Hall, the latter being the most notorious smoke spot. As of Aug. 1, 2016, the university no longer allows a puff of smoke across UT’s 105 acres as part of its tobacco-free initiative. This is not just regarding cigarettes. Included in the initiative is the ban of electronic cigarettes and vaporizers, or vapes— which are marketed as the “safer, smoke free” alternative to their tobacco counterparts.
The trend of electronic cigarettes has been expanding exponentially over the past decade. Throughout the U.S., teenagers and adults have turned away from the lethal hazard of cigarettes and have rapidly joined the electronic cigarette epidemic, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse.
The goal of this policy, proposed by Breathe-Easy UT and implemented by the school, is to protect public health by prohibiting smoking and the use of tobacco products and to guarantee the right of nonsmokers to breathe smoke-free air, according to UT’s website under “Smoking Policy and Cessation Information.”
With the new rule in place for the start of the Fall 2016 semester, several students have admitted to not following the rules.
“I do still vape despite the rules. It hasn’t turned me off at all other than that I am more conscious about it,” said sophomore and biology major Brandon Strobel.
The trend of transitioning to a smoke free campus did not begin with UT; hundreds of schools across the nation are also making the transition to a tobacco free society. Some of these schools include the University of Florida, Florida State University, the University of Michigan and Ohio State University.
Vaping and using electronic cigarettes has been marketed as the safer alternative to conventional cigarettes. By puffing on an e-cigarette, you are not taking in all of the harmful carcinogens that are released when a lighter first touches the tobacco, according to the Harvard School of Public Health website.
Under electronic cigarette statistics, the trend of smoking electronic cigarettes ultimately began with the idea of them being the much safer alternative to the consumption of conventional tobacco products. Since 2008, the sales of vapes have skyrocketed from $20 million to $2.875 billion last year, according to statisticbrain.com. As of the end of 2015, an estimated total of 45,000,000 Americans smoked the conventional cigarette whereas of 2,750,000 Americans claimed they smoked electronic. That is almost equivalent to about 12.6 percent of the entire country, with the percentage increasing rapidly.
“According to the state information in Florida, there has been an increase in the use of e-cigarettes and hookahs and a decrease in the use of conventional cigarettes,” said Dr. Mary Martinasek, a professor at UT who specializes in public health and wellness.
As this trend continues to lean toward a worldwide sensation, the health effects are essentially still to be discovered.
“The technology is ever changing, but there is evidence of misperception,” said Martinasek. “When the device is heated, propylene glycol is then exposed.”
When the gas is heated, it is confirmed to be second-degree carcinogen, ultimately being a cancerous compound, according to the Harvard School of Public Health website. In addition, users normally puff with a high amount of nicotine.
In one conventional cigarette, there is a range from eight to 20 micrograms depending on the type that person is smoking. If a person is using electronic cigarettes to quit conventional smoking, they are more than likely to get addicted to the e-cig based on the amount of nicotine being consumed according to the Harvard School of Public Health.
Researchers have proved that there are metals in both the juice the smoker is consuming as well as in the actual device. This information is too new to know of any short or long term effects, but studies show that consumers should air on the side of caution when inhaling the nicotine juice, according to the Harvard School of Public Health.
Breathe-Easy UT, an organization that provides information on the dangers of tobacco has been keeping a close eye on the vaping trend.
“What Live Well UT tries to inform students is that there are consequences. Inhaling any concoction of chemicals is likely to be harmful,” said Carly Capra, a sophomore international business major and the student coordinator of Live Well UT.
Breathe-Easy UT had been working on getting the new tobacco free policy implimented for the past six years.
“Vapes, e-cigarettes, and hookahs all fall under the smoke-free policy,” Capra said. “So even though the trend persists, it is still prohibited on campus to preserve the health of UT students. Students and faculty have been honoring the new policy and stepping off campus to smoke. We haven’t had too much trouble enforcing the new policy.”
Although the policy is mandatory, it’s difficult to entirely end a habit that has been apart of both student and faculty lives for quite sometime, according to the American Cancer Society. Students especially are noticing the effect of this new rule, but some are reluctant to change their way of life, at least for now.
“It’s like how people drink to avoid stress and get away, I’ll just vape every once in awhile,” Strobel said, despite his knowledge of potential health risks associated with e-cigs.
Strobel is not the only example of how students are still continuing with their habits despite new regulations.
“Yes, I still vape even though the school changed the rules. I just don’t do it in public places on campus,” said sophomore Tyler King. “The rule didn’t turn me off to it.”
As most students continue their trends, some are concerned about the health risks in regards to vaping.
“I’m somewhat concerned about health risks, but I think it’s a much better alternative compared to cigarettes,” King said.
Christian Pranzo can be reached at email@example.com.