“Secondhand smoke kills.” We’ve all heard it, and it’s been used as justification for <a href="http://www.santacruz.com/articles/smoking_ban_enacted_in_santa_cruz.html great and small—in bars, on campuses and throughout cities. At this point, most can agree that it is not fair for nonsmokers to have to suffer the negative health effects caused by cigarette smoke.
But new rounds of smoking bans, including the UC-wide smoking ban, which took effect on January 1, are increasingly banning the use of e-cigarettes and chewing tobacco along with traditional cigarettes, signifying that there’s more at stake than just secondhand smoke these days.
“It’s a culture change,” says Saladin Sale, co-chair of the campus Smoke- and Tobacco-Free Policy Implementation Committee. “We want UCSC to be a leader in advocating for a healthier society.”
Sale compares it to laws requiring motorcyclists to wear helmets when riding.
“When it comes to those who make certain lifestyle choices that are demonstrated to lead to disease processes that lead to higher health-care costs, society is making a decision that it wants those users to either pay a premium for their behavior or to just stop doing it. We see downstream that health-care costs of smokers drive up health-care costs for everyone.”
Chewing tobacco has been linked to mouth and tongue cancers, but there exist few studies about the health risks of e-cigarettes.
“I think it’s good they ban cigarettes,” says Omeed Ahrary, a sales associate at Green Vapors in downtown Santa Cruz, of the UCSC smoking ban. “But I think it’s kind of dumb how they have to deem e-cigarettes the same as cigarettes. Because they aren’t. They’re completely different.”
In the small shop, lined with vials of “e-liquid” in a variety of flavors, Ahrary demonstrates how a cloud of vapor from certain high-tech types of e-cigarettes can fill the entire room. Seeing who can create the biggest cloud is a growing trend among e-cigarette users, he says.
Trends aside, however, Ahrary says that a majority of the store’s customers are former cigarette smokers who are trying to quit.
The UCSC Smoke- and Tobacco-Free Policy Implementation Committee offers students information about using patches and gum for quitting cigarettes, but Saladin says he doesn’t consider e-cigarettes in league with these other quitting tools.
“Nicotine gum, nicotine patches and lozenges are all cessation resources that are acknowledged and regulated by the FDA. There are requirements about disclosing ingredients and disclosing how much nicotine is present. They’re considered safe. They’ve been studied. The e-cigarettes and vaporizers and all this—at the present time it’s the Wild West. It is totally unregulated,” Sale says.
Studies of e-cigarettes are pretty few and far between, but some claim to show that they contain carcinogens—though fewer than traditional cigarettes.
Regulating e-cigarettes isn’t just happening on college campuses. Nearly 50 California cities and counties have revised their smoke-free policies to address e-cigarette use. On Tuesday, Santa Cruz’s city council discussed a proposed amendment to the city’s smoking ordinance that would, among other things, prohibit the use of e-cigarettes in all areas where smoking is prohibited.
San Francisco is considering similar actions. Early this month San Francisco Supervisor Eric Mar proposed new legislation that would treat e-cigarettes the same as traditional cigarettes, claiming that while tobacco use among young people is low, e-cigarettes are growing in popularity with younger age groups. He cited a 2013 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention survey which recorded a noticeable increase in the number of high school students who had tried e-cigarettes: 10 percent in 2012 up from 4.7 percent in 2011.
As far as Sale is concerned, if keeping any and all tobacco products away from young people results in a generation of non-smokers, it is the right move. “If a generation of leaders comes to maturity in a smoke-free environment, they’re much more likely to just assume, well, that’s what it is. That’s how I think we can get to the goal of a tobacco-free society,” he says.
As far as a certain other popular smoking trend on the UCSC campus goes, the smoking ban literature doesn’t really address it, aside from saying it is regulated by the federal government. “The smoking ban is really focused on tobacco and nicotine addiction,” says Sale.
But will the smoking ban affect the campus’ infamous <a href="http://www.santacruz.com/articles/ucsc_campus_to_go_up_in_smoke_for_4_20.html? Most likely not. “I’ve not heard anything to say that there’s going to be a revolutionary change this year. Four-twenty is an anomaly,” says Sale. “It is this strangely Santa Cruz event.”