This spring, Duke declared that smoking cigarettes would be banned from campus starting in 2020.
But the new policy does not include e-cigarettes or electronic vaping devices, such as JUULs.
From parties to libraries to restrooms, e-cigarettes are prevalent on campus. JUULs, often compared to flash drives for their sleekness and form, are easier to conceal than cigarettes.
“The use of e-cigarettes by younger, non-smoking individuals is a developing trend nationally,” said senior Kushal Kadakia, student liaison for the Duke Smoking Cessation Program and former executive vice president of Duke Student Government.
Even though Duke has not kicked the electronic cigarettes to the curb, the growing industry is facing broader issues.
The FDA has given the e-cigarette industry an ultimatum: convince the agency that they can cut down on use by minors or face consequences. The FDA has taken more than 1,000 pages of documents from JUUL headquarters in recent months as part of the crackdown.
With their brightly-colored vape pods, it's easy to underestimate JUUL devices' potency—one pod, about two hundred inhales, contains the same amount of nicotine as twenty cigarettes.
Kadakia said that e-cigarettes are used to help smokers try to quit.
“The current initiative was developed after extensive conversations with community members and university leadership as well as based on current research regarding combustible tobacco and e-cigarettes, which the medical literature shows may be used by some smokers as a part of quit attempts,” Kadakia said.
As the FDA cracks down on vaping devices, peer universities may adopt stipulations which could shape Duke’s. For example, the University of Mississippi's 2013 smoke-free policy barred JUULs, though that has not stopped students from using them.
“Essentially they amount to a nicotine delivery system that mimics the actions associated with smoking without delivering any known cancer-causing agents to the user," Jed Rose, who leads Duke’s Center for Smoking Cessation, wrote in an essay excerpt of an essay published on the Center's website.
However, Rose warned that e-cigarettes "should not be viewed as risk-free."
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"After all, users may remain addicted to nicotine even though they eliminate their exposure to carcinogens," he wrote. "It’s analogous to switching heroin addicts to methadone—the user may remain addicted, but to a less dangerous compound.”
Kadakia explained that Smoking Cessation Program—including student leaders and University officials—are not currently taking action related to e-cigarettes, but that they are aware of the issue and continuing to have conversations around it.