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Duke looking into enacting an e-cigarette policy, wants to fight student use

Assistant professor of medicine James Davis announced at a Wednesday talk that Duke is considering enacting policy measures regarding e-cigarettes on campus, in addition to its July 2020 ban on combustible forms of tobacco.

Representatives from the Duke Initiative for Science & Society, School of Medicine and the Duke Center for Smoking Cessation discussed the social implications of vaping technology, moderated by Nita Farahany, professor of law and philosophy. The panelists discussed the health effects of e-cigarettes and whether e-cigarettes are a viable alternative to combustible cigarette smoking.

Compared to people who smoked combustible cigarettes, those with exposure to toxins found in e-cigarettes showed “enormous reductions in exposure [to these compounds] with people who used e-cigarettes,” said Jed Rose, professor in psychiatry and behavioral sciences.

“So far the indications are that vaping is substantially less harmful than cigarette smoking,”Rose said. 

Lauren Pacek, assistant professor in psychiatry and behavioral sciences, spoke to the effect of e-cigarette liquid flavorings on consumption patterns among different age groups. Restricting e-cigarette flavors to just tobacco reduces the intake among youth, she added, but could potentially interfere with adults’ efforts to quit. 

“The take-home message is that regulators and policymakers need to be really cognizant of not only the impact that regulations may have on e-cigarettes, but also need to think carefully about the off-target impacts that a policy might have on the use of other tobacco products, particularly combustible cigarettes,” Pacek said. 

Davis was involved in the creation of Duke’s smoke-free policy regarding combustible cigarettes and is currently participating in conversations surrounding a potential e-cigarette policy on campus. For Duke employees, Davis said, e-cigarettes are “one route through which they may be able to stop smoking and use an e-cigarette on campus.”

“We are now reconsidering our approach,” Davis said. “With students, we want to go after e-cigarette use. We really want to attack it.”

Davis mentioned potential problems in the regulation of e-cigarette use on campus, pointing out that Duke would have to implement a singular, uniform policy which would affect both staff and students.

First-year Zella Hanson spoke to the popularity of vaping on Duke’s campus. 

“The Juul is just another hot-ticket, have-to-have-it item, a way to up your clout,” Hanson said. “Quite a few people have Juuls, and, if they don’t have one themselves, they’re asking to hit someone else’s.”

Hanson asserted how those who are around 18-year-olds, members of the “first Juul generation,” are turning to products like Juul quickly enough that it could become difficult to measure trends effectively.

“I think that rise in [Juul] use is so fast that it can’t be illustrated in a data set,” Hanson said.

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