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Why Duke is now considering adding e-cigarettes to its smoking ban

At an October panel, it was revealed that the July 2020 smoking ban—previously only set to apply to combustible forms of tobacco—may also include restrictions on electronic cigarettes.

E-cigarettes were deliberately exempted from the ban when it was first announced in April 2018. However, James Davis, medical director for Duke’s Center for Smoking Cessation and a key voice in the development of the ban, aired his concerns upon the ban’s creation, telling The Chronicle in June 2018 that “good, long-term data” on e-cigarettes did not yet exist.

“Since the policy was announced, new evidence has emerged on e-cigarette use and e-cigarette-associated respiratory syndrome,” Davis wrote in an email to The Chronicle. “We are currently holding multiple discussions with students, faculty, staff on the option of banning e-cigarettes on campus. Once that process is complete, we expect to make a recommendation regarding e-cigarettes in the Duke Smoke-Free Policy.”

Nearly 1,500 cases of the syndrome and more than 30 associated deaths have been reported nationally, as of this week.

This proposed change in policy has generated debate among Duke faculty, with members coming out both in support of and against the new addition to the ban.

Faculty in favor of the amendment said that e-cigarette manufacturers deliberately mislead consumers about the safety and benefits to smoking cessation of their products. They also cited the Centers for Disease Control recommendation that “young people not use e-cigarettes or vaping products, particularly those containing THC.”

Faculty opposing this potential change argue that e-cigarettes are a safe and effective alternative for those choosing to quit smoking. 

The potential policy shift also comes after a May 2019 lawsuit from the state of North Carolina against JUUL Labs, the company controlling more than 75% of the e-cigarette market. This lawsuit represented the first of its kind taken by any state and specifically accused JUUL of misrepresenting the concentrations of nicotine and the health risks associated with their products.

Duke is not alone in considering action against e-cigarettes on campus. More than 2,000 campuses have banned e-cigarettes as of Oct. 1, according to the American Nonsmokers Rights Foundation.

Correction: The article's headline has been updated to reflect that Duke is considering a vaping ban. The Chronicle regrets the error.

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