Students seek to ban e-cigarettes from LSU

The wave of the future may get snuffed out with the past.

Regardless of whether the decision comes down to make LSU’s campus smoke-free, tobacco-free or somewhere in between, electronic cigarettes may well be placed under the same on-campus restrictions as its traditional counterparts.

The LSU smoke-free campus committee voted unanimously to recommend smoking electronic cigarettes — known as “vaping” — be banned from campus as part of any official smoke-free initiative, committee member Judith Sylvester says.

The committee submitted its final report to Executive Vice Chancellor and Provost Stewart Bell in March, and it’s just a matter of time before it makes its way to LSU President F. King Alexander, she said.

“Whether we go smoke-free or tobacco-free, e-cigarettes will be included in the ban part of that,” Sylvester said. “The reason for that is very simple: They aren’t FDA approved.”

She said any product allowed would have to be FDA approved.

Vaporizing liquid nicotine as an alternative to smoking cigarettes or other tobacco products has grown dramatically during the past year.

Due to its rapid increase in popularity, Sylvester said, there is little research on its health effects and subsequently a lack of laws governing its sale.

“The evidence is not in yet, and the evidence that is coming in is tipping toward that e-cigarettes are not safe,” Sylvester said.

The research that is available shows chemicals from the plastic cartridges and metal holdings can get into the vapor, and people are at risk for breathing those in, she said.

With some reluctance, Sylvester acknowledges vaping can be a successful smoking cessation aid, particularly to a lifelong smoker, but she remains adamant it has no place on a college campus.

“There is absolutely no reason for anybody below the age of 26 to use them,” Sylvester said. “It’s pure nicotine and it’s addictive. And because it’s not FDA approved, nobody really knows what they are getting in those cartridges.”

Cameron Kelly is the manager of Smokecignals in Baton Rouge, the second location of a New Orleans company that opened on Perkins Road last October.

The first of a growing number of “vape shops” in Baton Rouge, Smokecignals sells products that range from electronic-cigarette starter kits to liquid nicotine mixes, or “juice.”

Kelly said the juice comes in roughly 198 flavors and a number of nicotine concentrations, including zero-nicotine, and juice sold at Smokecignals is made to order and mixed in-house by either him or his staff.

He insists his product shouldn’t be lumped in with nationally sold, disposable e-cigarettes available in most gas stations and convenience stores.

“Those products are manufactured by the tobacco companies, so I don’t know what they are doing to market them or what are in their juices,” Kelly said. “I know what we put in our juice. We only use USDA-graded items that we mix together.”

But to Sylvester, an offering of different flavors is a “major red flag” that the product is being marketed to children, adding that banning e-cigarettes from LSU’s campus will help keep them out of the hands of children at the University Laboratory School and LSU Day Care Center.

“Those schools really are the primary targets for these things,” Sylvester said.

The state Senate unanimously approved a measure last month that banned the sale of electronic cigarettes and vaporizers to anyone under the age of 18. This is the state’s first legislation aimed at preventing the sale of e-cigarettes to minors.

Kelly said he welcomes the legislation and Smokecignal’s store policy since day one has prohibited the sale of vaporizers or juice to anyone under the age of 18.