Policy proposes considering electronic smoking devices the same as cigarettes

A silhouette of an e-cig smoker, Wednesday, Feb. 19, 2014, at Ocean campus. Photo by Elisa Parrino/The Guardsman
A silhouette of an e-cig smoker, Wednesday, Feb. 19, 2014, at Ocean campus. Photo by Elisa Parrino/The Guardsman

By Jonathan Adler/The Guardsman

As City College moves toward a smoke-free environment, unclear policy regarding acceptable use of electronic cigarettes, or e-cigarettes, is sparking discussion, confusion and giving students and faculty a jolt.

Whether or not they are cigarettes is what is being questioned.

E-cigarettes are battery powered devices that heat liquid nicotine, creating a vapor for the e-smoker to inhale. The user exhales smoke that does not have a tobacco smell.

Vapor pens, or vapes, are reusable e-cigarettes that typically don’t resemble traditional cigarettes. They have a sci-fi appeal and often feature a clear, detachable cartridge that can be refilled with flavored nicotine oil, like cotton candy or cookies-and-cream.

Disposable e-cigarettes tend to look like conventional cigarettes with a prepackaged, finite amount of nicotine.

“Without a policy, I would be compelled by current policy, no smoking,” Interim Dean of the Library, Christopher Kox said. “Until I get a ruling on what (an e-cigarette) is.”

The high-tech gadgets have no place at City College and are on the chopping block, according to a recommended smoking policy overview prepared by City College Police Chief Andre Barnes.

The proposed policy, dated Jan. 13, 2014, and updated on Feb. 13, 2014, would include e-cigarettes in the definition of smoking. The recommended policy would designate 16 smoking areas across six City College campuses.

Ocean campus would have at least nine designated smoking areas, while Chinatown/North Beach center, Downtown center and Southeast center are not equipped to support designated smoking areas and will remain smoke-free.

City College Associated Student Senator Ryan Mote, who has been working with Barnes on the proposed police, said e-cigarettes should be categorized as cigarettes just to avoid confusion.

This would require them to be puffed in places designated for smoking.

Barnes spoke on this topic at a Participatory Governance Council meeting on Feb. 20.

City College has no formal policy banning e-cigarettes yet, but smoking cigarettes is still prohibited within 20 feet of a door or window. The current smoking policy is the same as California state law.

“We need to be really consistent with our policy,” Director of Student Health Services Becky Perelli said.

Perelli also said e-cigarettes tend to be a distraction from a student’s primary purpose while on campus.

City College is not the first educational institution to review and amend smoke-free proposals to include e-cigarettes.

The University of California educational system mandated a smoke-free learning environment and a ban on pretty much all nicotine products, including e-cigarettes, that took effect on Jan. 1, according to the University of California Office of the President website.

Some students said they would not let an e-cigarette ban stop them from smoking on campus.

“I’m gonna hide it and I’m gonna smoke it. I’m addicted to smoking,” City College accounting student Pavlin Zanev said.

Zanev, 35, said he quit smoking two packs of cigarettes a day with the help of his e-cigarette.

Zanev said he would not smoke in class and would step outside if he needed to have a drag.

“I honestly don’t know what I would do if a student was smoking (an e-cigarette) in class,” instructor Nathaniel Feingersh-Steele said.

Feingersh-Steele said he would probably ask the student to leave if even a small minority of students objected, even if the e-cigarette vapor smelled like cake.

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