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After vaping for a short time, thank you for not vaping

Andrew Clements

Andrew Clements, a biology major, enjoys a puff from his e-cigarette in a smoking area near the Salem campus.

By Austin Antrican – Photo by Ally Mcvey

Smoking?

On a smoke-free campus?

The answer you’d most expect to hear: “Lock him up, and toss that pack of cigarettes into the trash.”

But technology – for a short time, anyway – gave Chemeketa smokers a new glimmer of hope.
The latest fad among students who smoke seems to be e-cigarettes – essentially, a water vaporizer with nicotine and flavors.

And for a brief moment, at least, they were allowed indoors, with some instructors actually permitting students to light up during classes during a short window of time in the fall and winter terms.

According to Andrew Bone, the college’s executive dean, that moment has passed.

“Chemeketa took the position a number of years ago that smoking was not conducive to a healthy learning environment,” Bone said, referencing the college’s long-standing smoke-free policy.

The Chemeketa Board of Education voted at its March 19 meeting to relegate e-cigarettes to the same ashtray as conventional smokes on campus: They simply aren’t allowed.

Wait a moment. Were students really “lighting up” their e-cigarettes during class, just one term ago?

Absolutely.

But again, the window of opportunity was short – at Chemeketa, certainly, and perhaps even around the state. Laws currently are being proposed in Oregon that would ban e-cigarettes indoors in all public locations.

The issue is complicated because the technology is new, however.

Bone said, “The people selling e-cigarettes are making the claim that there is no concrete evidence that second-hand vapor from the e-cigs causes any harm. As they have a financial interest having that position accepted by public institutions, we have looked to other sources for guidance.

“When smoking was new, doctors initially said it was good for you. And now we know that it’s bad.”

The trend toward e-cigarettes also raises some interesting questions, despite the not-allowed-here stand that the college decided to take. Among them:

Are students able to focus more with their nicotine fix?

Does smoking an e-cigarette distract other students from their studies?

Are some Chemeketa instructors OK with it?

On that last question, at least, Bone said, “The instructors can always tell a student to stop doing anything that is disrupting – cell phone use, for example. Having a policy prohibiting e-cigarettes will hopefully give instructors some assistance in maintaining a good learning environment.”

Many of the students who were using e-cigarettes during the fall and winter terms were definitely not discreet about it.

Charles Johnston is a first-year student who used what’s called a vape pen in class.

“It helps me get my buzz without having to miss any of class,” he said recently while sucking the vapor out of a red cylinder that resembled a pen NASA may have invented.

Johnston said he noticed confused looks from fellow students in his classes.

“They think I’m smoking, but then they smell green apple. It’s hilarious,” he said, recalling the first time he pulled out the pen and “lit up” in a class.

Not everyone was on board, however. Johnston said he had been asked not to use the e-cigarette in some of his classes.

“In those classes, I [was] not able to focus very well,” he said.

Chemeketa instructors have different takes on the issue.

Before the March 19 Board of Education decision to ban e-cigarettes from campus, Kristin O’Shea, a communications instructor, said that the use of the devices in her classroom didn’t bother her.

“I don’t care what the students are doing in class if it helps them and doesn’t distract others,” she said.

Some instructors said they don’t even want food in their classrooms, let alone e-cigarettes.

Among them is Greg Johnson, an English instructor.

“There’s too many distractions for my fast-paced class. Even just the smell of another student’s snack would be distracting. Aren’t the e-cigarettes the same thing?” he said.

Kyle Kauffman, a second-year student, also used a vape pen during a class. He said that during his psychology class during the winter term, he sat near the back door, nonchalantly blowing puffs of what appeared to be smoke.

Students around him did not seem to be phased, he said.

“It’s not like I’m blowing it in their faces,” he said.

Was it distracting for non-smoking students?

Joe Collinsworth, a first-year student, said that a student vaped during his winter term math class. “I [wasn’t] bothered by it,” he said, but at least some of the students who sat nearby were.

“The girls who sat in front of him just moved to a different part of the room, and everyone was happy,” he said.

Johnston said he was disappointed that he lost the freedom to light up on campus, even though the e-cigarettes do not produce smoke.

“I can handle not doing it,” he said, be he will now have to look elsewhere to get his nicotine fix.

Bone said, “As with conventional smoking, the e-smokers will have to go off campus to use their e-cigarettes.”

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