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Duke to ban e-cigarettes on campus starting in July

After initially including only combustible tobacco products like cigarettes, cigars and hookahs in a “smoke-free” campus policy set to go in effect July 1, Duke has now added e-cigarettes and vaping products to the ban. 

Duke’s experts had reviewed a “growing body of evidence” about potential health dangers associated with vaping since the original policy was announced. That included the Center For Disease Control’s recognition of a newly identified disease, e-cigarette, or vaping, product use-associated lung injury (EVALI), according to an email sent to students Thursday from Vice President for Administration Kyle Cavanaugh and Chancellor for Health Affairs A. Eugene Washington.

As of Jan. 21, the CDC had observed more than 2,700 cases of the syndrome in the United States, including 60 deaths. 

“Combined with the rapid increase of vaping and use of e-cigarettes in recent years, especially among college-age students, we have reconsidered these provisions of the policy,” Cavanaugh and Washington wrote in the email. 

The policy will apply to all Duke property, owned or leased. 

Washington and Cavanaugh wrote that the announcement will give community members “sufficient time and opportunity” to get treatment for nicotine dependence before the ban takes effect in less than five months. They noted that the Duke Smoking Cessation Program will “provide a highly effective, evidence-based treatment program to support those who want to quit.”

This e-cigarette ban did not come out of nowhere. James Davis, the director of the Duke Smoking Cessation Program, announced during an October panel that Duke was considering adding e-cigarettes and vapes to the ban. Davis spoke to Duke Student Government and Academic Council about the potential addition to the ban to receive their input, referencing the dangers of EVALI and their addictiveness. 

“We essentially started with the position saying, ‘let’s use a messaging and outreach campaign to let the ones who use e-cigarettes know its dangers.’ However, this was seen by our administration as insufficient in light of the severity that we see in this lung syndrome,” Davis told DSG.

He noted at Academic Council that approximately 21% of Duke’s undergraduate population smoke e-cigarettes, but only 2.9% already vape when they enter their first year on campus. 

As Duke mulled over the vape ban, members of the community weighed in. In an Oct. 7 letter to the editor, eight Duke faculty members urged the University to include e-cigarettes in the smoking ban. Four days later, a different letter to the editor argued against a vape ban.

“It is misguided and counterproductive to ban vaping because it is an important, less harmful alternative to combustible cigarettes for addicted smokers who cannot quit,” read the letter, which was signed by 14 worldwide tobacco and addiction experts. 

Jed Rose, director of the Duke Center for Smoking Cessation and professor in psychiatry and behavioral sciences, was the top signatory on that letter. He had backed allowing on-campus vaping as Duke mulled banning e-cigarettes, The Chronicle reported. 

He has accepted funding for his research from the tobacco and e-cigarette industries, including Philip Morris International and JUUL Labs, Inc. Rose said he has no conflict of interest issues. 

“There’s virtually no plausible scenario where e-cigarettes can have a negative public health impact,” Rose said at an event in October. 

Editor's Note: This article was updated at 12:12 p.m. to include information from the debate leading up to the e-cigarette ban.

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