Campus tobacco limits include smokeless chew, water vapor cigarettes


A recent amendment to the 2013-14 Wilkes Student Handbook was announced publicly through Today At Wilkes on Jan. 20.

Wilkes’ tobacco use policy now officially applies to “any product intended to mimic tobacco products, contain tobacco flavoring, or deliver nicotine other than for the purpose of cessation (patch or pills acceptable),” as stated on page 58 of the handbook.

Dr. Mark Allen, Wilkes’ dean of Student Affairs, explained that the recent decision to alter Wilkes’ tobacco policy to include e-cigarette use was “to provide a more holistic definition of tobacco use.

“Some of it was driven by the newest technology, particularly the popular use of e-cigarettes,” Allen clarified.

Allen said he and other members of Student Affairs spoke with a group of student leaders, who reported some complaints they had heard about e-cigarette usage in campus buildings and concerns about the fact that e-cigarettes still contain nicotine.

Wilkes was already in the process of reviewing its tobacco policy. Allen and others considered the complaints and observed how other colleges and universities were approaching e-cigarette usage to determine what seemed like a reasonable approach. They ultimately decided that categorizing e-cigarettes with cigarettes made sense from a practical standpoint.

“By virtue of them being called cigarettes, there is a clear connection to tobacco use … and we attempt to discourage that,” Allen explained. “We have also instituted a ban in campus buildings on the use of chewing tobacco, so we decided to clean up the wording of our policy just to try to get all products that are tobacco products or derivatives under one umbrella.”

While the American College Health Association recommends that campuses ban tobacco-imitating products, such as e-cigarettes, as well as tobacco products, action by various American colleges and universities has varied.

Some, such as Wilkes and Ohio State, have banned the use of e-cigarettes indoors as part of their tobacco-free policies, while others, like Northeastern University, have put off enacting a policy until more research has been conducted. Others still, such as University of Michigan, limit use of both e-cigarettes and traditional cigarettes to specified areas on campus.

Local King’s College and Luzerne County Community College address e-cigarettes in their own ways.

Robert McGonigle, associate vice president for Student Affairs at King’s College, reported that, while King’s did recently review and revise its tobacco policy, e-cigarettes were not raised as a concern and were not included in it.

“Our smoking policy mainly addresses tobacco use,” he stated, alluding to the fact that e-cigarettes are not tobacco-containing products.

He added that no one had ever raised any concerns about e-cigarette smoking on campus.

“If we had students, faculty or staff being affected or bothered by it, that’s something we would look at,” McGonigle said. “The priority would be on ensuring that no individual has to be affected by any kind of smoke, even from an e-cigarette.”

Luzerne County Community College limit use of both e-cigarettes and traditional cigarettes to specified areas on campus. Violators of the policy are disciplined with fines.

Allen said Wilkes’ Student Affairs has not yet received any complaints or commentary about the new policy from students. He also mentioned the formation of a larger committee meant to focus on further modifications to the tobacco policy and cessation efforts to help smokers in the campus community who would like to quit.

He said he hopes to offer more opportunity for feedback before future modifications, such as an open forum for students to provide input.