Eliminating the cravings across campus

To further reduce and discourage smoking provincially, recent updates to the Smoke Free Ontario Act (SFOA) has made it illegal for universities and colleges to sell tobacco products on campus. With these changes, smokers may seek to purchase alternatives like e-cigarettes, made without tobacco, on campus as means to ease the cravings.

However, purchasing e-cigarettes at UW may be difficult, given that there are no current known locations that sell them. As of now, UW has no official policy on whether e-cigarettes can be sold on campus or where they can be consumed.

“E-cigarettes are an emerging trend and something we need to consider. We have started a process of consultation with campus about how we should handle e-cigarettes [by] creating some kind of guideline or policy about their use on campus,” said Nick Manning, director of media relations and issues management at UW.

Policy restrictions on the use of e-cigarettes on UW campus are limited.

“The policy on smoking, Policy 29, isn’t particularly prescriptive about the types of smoking. So I think, I would speculate, yes, it would apply,” Manning said.

Since the instatement of Policy 29 in 2008, smoking products have not been available for purchase on campus grounds. UW’s official stance remains that smoking is not allowed inside any of UW’s buildings or within 10 metres of any university building or vehicle.

“Smoking for research or for traditional Aboriginal cultural/spiritual purposes may be permitted as described by legislation,” Manning said.

Likewise, the enforcement of these policies seems to be fairly loose.

“The police here follow the same enforcement as the anti-smoking legislation [that] the Waterloo Regional Police Service [does]. So if they get a complaint about enforcement, they will deal with it. But they’re not active; they don’t patrol looking for smokers … Line management at the university have a responsibility to make sure that the policy is followed,” Manning said when asked about incidences of students seen smoking outside the SLC.

With regular cigarettes, inhaling tobacco is seen as  having the greatest impact on a person’s health; however, with e-cigarettes, those consequences are harder to determine.

“The person would still be inhaling on a regular basis both potentially nicotine and the other chemicals that are in that solution,” said Christine Czoli, PhD candidate at the School of Public Health and Health Systems.

As of now, determined short-term risks are limited. E-cigarettes may or may not contain nicotine. In those that do, the nicotine is absorbed into the blood stream, and as a result users may experience an increased heart rate similar to when smoking tobacco cigarettes.

“So in Canada, e-cigarettes that do not contain nicotine and do not make a health claim … are legal. They’re considered consumer products like gum … and they can be legally sold,” said Czoli.  However, those that do contain nicotine must be approved by Health Canada. Gaining that approval is a difficult and lengthy process, and a decision not lightly taken given that long-term effects are virtually unknown. 

“At this point e-cigarettes aren’t recognized as a cessation aid and we’re still learning a lot of information about them — how they can or cannot help smokers quit. We just don’t know a lot of information about them yet,” said Adam Cole another PhD student at the School of Public Health and Health Systems and the campus program co-ordinator for Leave the Pack Behind.

“For public health, you wouldn’t want to introduce or allow a product into the market that isn’t benefitting health,” Czoli said. E-cigarettes could go both ways: they can potentially be a quitting aid or they may, due to the nicotine, become an alternative addiction.

The recent additions to the SFAO aim to reduce accessibility to tobacco products.

“If something is just more available in the environment, people tend to pick it up more. It’s just that kind of convenience factor and that presence in the environment which is really important,” Czoli said.

This is considerably troubling for student populations as stress is one of the greatest triggers for smoking. In the past, students would easily be able to purchase cigarettes, especially during exam season; however, with the changes to the SFOA, students are encouraged to seek healthier alternatives.

Through services like Leave the Pack Behind, the on-campus smoking awareness group, students are provided with a support network and medically endorsed cessation aids, like nicotine patches and gum, for free.

“We want to engage students in conversations about tobacco use. We encourage students who are interested in quitting to quit smoking and we offer free resources to help them quit,” Cole said. 


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