Gateway Community College earned props for becoming the state’s first smoke-free public campus—and made it clear that its ban includes those much-debated electronic cigarettes.
The federal government’s number-two regional health administrator, Betsy Rosenfeld, came to the downtown New Haven campus Wednesday to present Gateway President Dorsey Kendrick with a plaque officially recognizing the college as smoke-free, the first of 17 state colleges and university to ban smoking completely throughout the premises. The event was held a week after the 50th anniversary of the U.S. Surgeon General’s landmark report on the health perils of smoking. Gateway has been smoke-free since it opened in 2012.
Addressing a crowd at the event, Connecticut’s public health commissioner, Jewel Mullen, spoke of how college-aged people remain the most susceptible to tobacco addiction. Statewide, 16 percent of people smoke tobacco cigarettes, she said. A third of all Nutmeggers between the ages of 18 and 24 are smoking.
Some have been taking up “vaping,” or smoking nicotine-infused “e-cigarettes.” (Click here for a story on that.) E-cigarettes use a battery to heat liquid, turning it into a vapor. The liquid, or “e-juice,” comes in disposable cartridges containing chemicals, vegetable glycerine, flavors and varying amounts of nicotine. The consumer inhales the vapor instead of smoke.
The public health community nationwide is in the midst of a spirited debate on the fast-growing practice. Some recommend encouraging vaping to wean smokers from cancer-causing tobacco. Others recommend including it in smoke-free bans to avoid hooking new smokers on nicotine, in the fear that they will move on to tobacco cigarettes. (Click here for a story on New York City’s debate.) E-cigarette companies, meanwhile, are targeting teens.
Gateway has come down on the side of including vaping in its ban, said Kendrick. “‘Smoke-free includes everything. We don’t want any distractions. We don’t want anything that reminds us that we are supporting anything that has to do with tobacco smoking. We don’t want the students to go into the classroom feeling ‘Gee, well I can just bring in the e-cigarettes.’”
Mullen said she, like public health officials nationwide, is waiting for the federal Food and Drug Administration to draw conclusions from research currently under way. For now, she said, her department recommends that people “proceed with caution” on e-cigarettes. Especially young people. “What we worry about is having individuals get hooked on something and then not be able to stop,” Mullen said. “What they’re getting hooked on is nicotine, then anything that can lead to that, might lead them to smoke.”
Gateway manufacturing and engineering student Tabitha Ginger was outside the Gateway George Street entrance smoking a cigarette and drinking a Monster energy drink as the indoors anti-smoking event broke up Wednesday afternoon. Asked her opinion on the smoking ban, she replied, “That sucks. A lot of us actually need it because of all the stress going on. It just relaxes us for the most part.” She said she doesn’t vape, but might if it were allowed inside the school. She argued it should be allowed. “A lot of people don’t want to go outside just to smoke a fake cigarette,” she said.
Click on the video to hear more from her, Mullen, and Kendrick.