Home » Campus » Ohio State’s ban of e-cigarettes sparks disagreement

Ohio State’s ban of e-cigarettes sparks disagreement

Columbus resident Phil Risko takes a drag from his e-cigarette while listening to local music at the Woodlands Tavern Jan. 30.  Risko said bought an e-cigarette to quit smoking cigarettes. Credit: Jonathan McAllister / Lantern photographer

Columbus resident Phil Risko takes a drag from his e-cigarette while listening to local music at the Woodlands Tavern Jan. 30. Risko said he bought an e-cigarette to quit smoking cigarettes.
Credit: Jonathan McAllister / Lantern photographer

Ohio State’s campus-wide tobacco ban includes at least one product that uses no tobacco at all, but its mimicked appearance has OSU officials asking students, faculty and staff to keep e-cigarettes off university grounds.

About five percent of students at OSU have been affected by the campus-wide tobacco ban, according to Dr. Peter Shields, deputy director of Wexner Medical Center James Comprehensive Cancer Center.

Shields said most of the questions the hospital, which has been tobacco-free since 2006, gets on the ban are about the enforcement of the ban and on e-cigarettes.

“Electronic cigarettes are included in the ban. Actually, it’s any tobacco product, anything that mimics a tobacco product with tobacco,” Shields said in a meeting with The Lantern Jan. 16.

The campus-wide tobacco ban went into effect Jan. 1 in order to promote healthier life choices among students, faculty, staff and guests of OSU. The campus-wide ban was announced in 2013, and was set to take effect Aug. 1. In August, however, university officials said the ban would not be enforced until 2014.

E-cigarettes are included in the ban because they contain nicotine. The difference between e-cigarettes and regular cigarettes is that they do not contain tobacco, which makes them arguably “healthier,” according to Discovery Fit and Health.

There is a mechanism in e-cigarettes that heats up liquid nicotine, which turns to a vapor that smokers inhale and exhale, like a regular cigarette. E-cigarettes aren’t subject to U.S. tobacco laws because they do not contain tobacco, which means they can be purchased at any age, not just by people over 18.

Clinical studies of e-cigarettes have also not been submitted to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services website, so what chemicals they contain and the overall safety of the product is unknown.

Shields said e-cigarettes might be particularly appealing to children and encourage nicotine addiction at a young age.

“Right now they’re able to be sold to anyone of any age, so an 11-year-old can go in there and get their nicotine (vaporizers) or whatever it is they wanna buy, so these are big issues and so in my mind until they’re proven as a cessation method, they don’t fight tobacco use,” Shields said.

He also said younger people smoking is a problem because it can become an addiction.

“It’s really an adolescent disease,” Shields said of smoking. “I mean, most times people start smoking (at) 11 years old, 12 years old, 14 years old, 15 years old, but it takes years to get really addicted and it’s during the college years that really some people get cemented.”

Some OSU students who use e-cigarettes said they don’t mind OSU’s ban of the product.

Michael Moline, a fourth-year in strategic communication who uses e-cigarettes, said he understands and appreciates what OSU is doing and will continue to abide by and support the regulation.

“It’s definitely a change,” Moline said. “I’ve found ways to keep my personal habit away from campus.”

Moline said he uses his device at home.

OSU is not alone in its ban, as other Big Ten schools have similar policies. The University of Illinois, Indiana University, University of Iowa, University of Michigan and Purdue University also have campus smoking bans, and the University of Minnesota has a smoking ban set to take effect July 1.

Iowa has had a ban in place since 2008, and the university is currently determining if e-cigarettes should be banned in addition to cigarettes, said Iowa spokesman Tom Moore.

Minnesota’s proposed ban would include e-cigarettes from the start, according to the Minnesota Daily, though no official policy has been announced for the university.

Shields stressed that OSU’s ban relies on a peer pressure form of enforcement. That means that if someone is seen using tobacco products on campus, there is not a definitive punishment. People are expected to merely tell the person using the product to stop and educate them on the ban. However, there are mechanisms to enforce the policy if the person does not listen.

“It goes to the department chair if someone reports (a faculty member). The department chair calls them in and says, ‘You can’t really smoke here,’ and if they still do, then it goes up to the dean with Human Resources and people stop smoking,” Shields said.

Reported violations of the tobacco ban will be handled by the Office of Human Resources, not University Police.

OSU has spent about $43,000 of its $100,000 tobacco ban signage budget to make sure campus visitors remember to put out their cigarettes. Signs have been placed outside several university buildings, including the Ohio Union, and banners have been hung in parking garages.

Aaron Miller, a third-year in agriscience education, used to use dip but has started using e-cigarettes, though he said he’s even begun moving away from those since the campus ban started. He said the ban has affected him as a user of tobacco products.

“Using smokeless tobacco is 100 percent a personal choice,” Miller said. “It affects no one except the user.”

Miller said he has had to find different areas to continue his habit.

“I don’t agree with these changes,” Miller said. “College is a chance to grow up and I feel like this ban is not helpful for ensuring a healthier campus. A lot more people get hurt fighting in drunken brawls than do from putting a good dip in.”


  1. The next act of the OSU Big Brother will be making sure that people on campus wear pre-approved socks so that their toes stay a proper, healthy temperature.

  2. There is no way of enforcing the new rules anyway so they are useless. I still see people smoking on campus all of the time, so it just seems like a waste of money and resources to me since the rules aren’t being followed or enforced. Also, banning something that doesn’t hurt anyone else, like e cigarettes, seems like a stupid ban to me. Trying to have too much control over people…starting to sound too much like American government…

  3. Any state university would not be out of character in discouraging tobacco use, but this seems more of joining the latest higher education craze.

    A few questions;
    Don’t call police for violations, but Human Resource?
    Rely on $100,000 worth of signage and peer pressure from the general public for enforcement?
    Can I smoke on the west side of high st?
    What about the scarlet & grey golf course?
    What about Big League chew and various gum & candy smokes, beef jerky snuff, pretty sure they “mimic” usage. Are they included?
    If your using at patch, mint or gum to quit your addiction, are you at risk of being reported?
    What next?
    Call in Bloomberg to make campus a “soft drinks and high fructose corn syrup free zone”?

  4. $100,000 on signs for a ban that is unenforceable because it is not only unreasonable, but illegal. Why is this not the focus of this article, $100,000 FOR SIGNS AROUND CAMPUS. That is a an enormous sum of money not to mention you are going to prohibit an adult from using smokeless tobacco and e cigs, both products that have zero risks for anyone except the user. Call it a request, Ohio State, this is not a ban, because if it was, it would be struck down by the judicial system in months.

  5. My only remark is on this quote:

    “E-cigarettes are included in the ban because they contain nicotine.”

    I almost chuckle at this because it is absolutely False. Yes, some liquid for E-cigs contain nicotine which is to benefit tobacco users who want to ween off nicotine, BUT, not all liquid has nicotine! This is where the author of the article is clearly uninformed. Almost any place that sells liquid for electronic cigarettes will sell nicotine-free liquid which is just going to be flavored vapor.

    For this reason, I strongly disagree with this part of the ban. And if you don’t believe me, visit a vapor shop (i.e. AltSmoke) near campus and ask for nicotine-free liquid. They’ll have plenty for you.

    With all due respect of course, I simply wish to inform those who are mislead by this.

  6. Love the preaching of a healthy lifestyle, yet Natural Light Beer advertisement is smacked on University Housing Red Buses that go around the campus. I guess alcohol is way less morally wrong then nicotine perhaps? I would probably feel a bit different if Guinness had an ad there, because at least you can make an argument it has some nutrients in it or some red wine instead.

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  13. This ban makes no sense to me, exspecially on e cigs. For one, yes you must be over 18 to purchase this product. Two it has been shown by nautical doctors and universities to be much better than a traditional cigarette. It has also been proven that the vapor exhaled can not affect those around you. Also, not every one that uses e cigs, has nicotine in it. Some just like the valor and taste.
    This is a way of putting fear in the under educated. My biggest argument is, these students are the ones paying to attend these universities. So in actuality it is their money you are wasting. If a student wants to go outside to smoke or vape it is their choice.
    I can see designated smoking areas, but to think you will be able to truely ban a persons rights, your just fooling yourself.

  14. I vaped my way out of smoking recently. My close family is thrilled. Next I’ll help my brother do the same when we meet for Christmas. It’s the best Christmas present I could ever give him but (shh…) don’t tell the public health folks.

    Instead of celebrating the success of vapors like me getting off cigs they are opposing and obstructing every way they can think of with excuses that would be groaners at a liars’ club. What ever they mean by public health I’m not included in the definition. They don’t have my trust or respect.

  15. We know exactly what is in e-cigarettes. Propylene Glycol in varying amounts. FDA ruling = harmless for inhalation. Vegetable Glycerine in varying amounts. FDA ruling = safe for use, actually it’s in allot and I mean Allot of things. Food flavorings. This is the the only area where there could be trouble. But the vaping community is dead set on updating knowledge on the contents of the flavorings. (Cake/food flavorings by the way.) Oh and last but not least Nicotine. Nicotine has been used and regulated well by the FDA for years. It also does not cause cancer. Don’t believe? Look it up. UK studies show that the average cigarette contains around 4016 harmful chemicals/toxins. 792 of which are addictive. 791 are known to cause cancer. The one that is addictive but does not cause cancer? Drum roll…. Nicotine. That means about 3,224 of the left over chemicals/toxins have unknown effects. We now know the contents of “e-juice”. So how about it 4016+ chemicals and toxins, or 4 known FDA approved substances. Which one do you want your loved one sucking on. FYI I quit smoking a year ago. I started vaping. I have never felt better. Food has never tasted so good. I breath easier. Oh and my doctor was impressed by the results as well. I now use absolutely no nicotine. Yes NONE! How about that. I vape now for flavor.

  16. “E-cigarettes are included in the ban because they contain nicotine.” Thus the non-nicotine ones must not be included in the ban! I would argue that if ever confronted… It’s their words as per why, not mine…

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