The Texas A&M University system, one of the largest public university systems in Texas, has banned vaping and e-cigarette products on all 11 campuses and properties. The ban follows the trend of institutions reacting to recent illnesses and deaths related to smoking products.
The A&M system took a stand in addressing the issue on Oct. 1 in a memo sent out systemwide from the Office of the Chancellor.
“Vaping and the use of electronic cigarettes have been associated with serious illness and deadly lung disease. Earlier this month, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that it is aware of more than 800 cases of lung injury and 12 deaths in the U.S. All of the cases have one element in common: a history of e-cigarette product use or vaping,” Chancellor John Sharp wrote in the memo.
Smoking is already banned in most areas within the system. The new ban is focused on vaping and e-cigarette products. The memo states to ban vaping “as soon as possible,” and ends with the Chancellor thanking Michael K. Young, president of A&M-College Station for the inspiration of the ban.
“This health threat is serious enough that I want to see the ban include every building, outside space, parking lot, garage and laboratory within the Texas A&M System. The ban also should extend to every facility of our $950 million research enterprise and all System properties in the 250 Texas counties in which the Texas A&M System has a presence,” Chancellor Sharp wrote.
Psychology junior Sabrina Bazan said she’s not a smoker but she disagrees with the ban since she has a lot of friends that smoke. She said vaping helps people “get rid of the habit of smoking cigarettes.”
“It’s difficult for them because they’re not able to vape on campus or they smoke cigarettes and they can’t smoke that either on campus,” she said. “But yet they see a kid who has a Juul and they’ll be smoking and they say, ‘Oh, it’s vaping.’”
Bazan said people think a Juul is vaping but it’s actually an e-cigarette.
“It’s about the knowledge and how much you know about it,” Bazan said. “To me it’s about knowing the difference and knowing what is what.”
A&M-Kingsville permits smoking in “open-air areas outside of buildings at a distance of at least 20 feet from any entrance door or window,” according to the university smoking policy.
A&M-Kingsville communication sciences and disorders senior Victoria Aime Castro said she always sees students smoking or vaping while walking around campus.
“There’s actually designated smoking sections outside of the dorms, where you have the little table, a little setup and an ashtray,” she said.
Castro said students are still smoking after the ban and that it’s a part of the culture on campus.
“I don’t agree with them banning it because it’s going against one’s own free will. And it’s kind of just putting these regulations on adults. We are free to make decisions and a campus should be focusing more on academics and student Involvement instead of what’s going on in their personal lives,” she said.
Education junior Angelica Casas said she’s in between. She agrees with the university but also feels it should be up to the individual.
“After watching all of the stuff that you see on the news with people dying off of it,” she said. “But if I was a smoker. Maybe I would have a different opinion or mind set about it,” she said.
Education senior Esther Ramsey said she thinks smoking is dangerous and nobody truly knows the effects of vaping.
“I think that it’s great that they excluded smoking and vaping on campus,” she said. “Being an asthmatic, I don’t want to smell smoke or even walk through the smoke that comes out of a vaping machine.”
Cynthia Teniente-Matson, president of A&M-San Antonio, said the university took a stance on the issue about a year ago.
“We were already in sync with that (the ban),” she said. “What we had not done that you may have seen, is no vaping signs. We didn’t have the signs. Now we have the signs specific to that.”
She said e-cigarette products are relatively new, and some people are not sure what the effects are.
E-cigarettes are “battery-operated devices that heat a liquid and deliver an aerosolized product to the user,” according to research published by the New England Journal of Medicine. They are commonly used to curb negative smoking habits, but there is limited proof showing they are an effective alternative.
“I think it’s really important for the health and wellness of our student population to understand the consequences of vaping,” Matson said.
Matson said the university cannot control what students do outside of campus but can bring awareness to students.
“We see people landing in hospitals, young people, students, in many cases, emergency situations and losing their life, because of this product,” Matson said. “I think it’s important to the university to take a step to help students understand.”
Correction made 1/24/20: Correct Micheal K. Young to Michael K. Young