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Vaping in Perkins: Library policies prohibit use of vapes, but enforcement remains a challenge

As finals draw near, students studying in the library may have noticed the difficulties of enforcing the policy against smoking and vaping—as well as how many students enjoy a nicotine rush while studying.

On April 9, senior Davis Lovvorn posted on Fix My Campus, suggesting that the smoking and vaping policy be “actually enforce[d].”

“I was just sick and tired of seeing people vape in Perkins,” Lovvorn said. “It’s just so obnoxious, I think that’s the number one word. It feels like people are blatantly flaunting it.”

Duke Libraries’ smoking and vaping policy prohibits smoking, vaping, and using e-cigarettes in any library building or within 20 feet of a library door or window. Erin Nettifee, an access and library services coordinator, confirmed that e-cigarettes—such as the popular Juuls—are banned. 

E-cigarettes are flavored to taste like fruit or mint and create only a small plume of smoke, making them much easier to conceal than regular cigarettes. They offer a way to heat up nicotine without the carcinogenic tar of combustible cigarettes, but certain studies have linked chemicals in vape “juice” to popcorn-lung—which is when the lungs' air sacs become scarred and constricted—and increased levels of carcinogenic compounds in the urine of young people who vape.

The effects of cigarettes have been studied for years, but the new risks of carcinogenic compounds in e-cigarettes have yet to be understood. Concerns have been raised that e-cigarettes allow young users to become addicted to nicotine without knowing the true health effects of the devices used to deliver it.

Recently, the F.D.A. issued warnings to at least 40 retailers for violating the law by selling e-cigarettes to those under 21 years of age. Hunky Dory, a Ninth Street store that sells Juuls and Juul pods, now asks for an ID as proof of age before purchase.

“You can argue that’s it’s personal choice, and I don’t have a problem with people choosing different lifestyle choices,” Lovvorn said. “But when it’s something that can actually hurt other people through secondary smoke that’s where I draw the line.”

Sophomore Allen Qiu, a representative for Fix My Campus, responded to Lovvorn’s post with a suggestion to notify the front desk staff of the library.

“Obviously there’s nothing stopping students from asking other students to stop vaping,” Qiu said. “But a lot of the reasons people post in Fix My Campus is because they don’t want direct confrontation and want a proxy from Fix My Campus to step in.”

Nettifee also said that students are encouraged to inform the front desk librarians of any concerns, as well as to post feedback on Fix My Campus and the Ask a Librarian tool on the library’s website.

“I am not aware of anything being done yet with respect to Juuls,” wrote Emily Daly, the head of the assessment and user experience department of the library, in an email. “But we might add a reference to Juuls in our policy if use does pick up (just as we added the reference to vaping when use of e-cigs/vaping picked up).”

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