Updated OCC smoking policy includes e-cigarettes

By: Sherri Kolade | Farmington Press | Published March 10, 2016

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FARMINGTON HILLS — Oakland Community College students accustomed to smoking electronic cigarettes and vaping on campus grounds will have to find another place to figuratively light up, officials said.

A Jan. 11 campuswide email went out on recent changes made to OCC’s no smoking policy. The policy, originally created several years ago, banned smoking and the use of other tobacco products. 

The updated policy now prohibits the use of e-cigarettes, or vaping, to ultimately offer “a healthier learning environment for all students,” the email states.

Also, OCC employees, students, vendors, contractors and the public are not allowed to smoke on any school property, including all five campuses; owned or leased properties such as parking areas, athletic fields, offices, classrooms, hallways, restrooms, lunchrooms, elevators and meeting rooms; and all community areas, according to the email.

Peter Provenzano, vice chancellor for administrative services at OCC, said recently that the policy is for the benefit of all students.

“We mostly want to make sure we get across the idea that we are committed to providing an optimal learning environment — we consider our students first in these policy updates,” he said.

The OCC Environmental Health and Safety Committees, located at each campus, originally discussed the risks and benefits of e-cigarettes and vaping, and recommended the policy change based on the disruption of classes due to the scented vapor being released, according to the email.

According to vaporfi.com, e-cigarettes look similar in size and shape to a traditional cigarette, but contain different parts: a battery, a cartridge and an atomizer, and a silicone mouthpiece. Personal vaporizers resemble a fountain pen and have a large battery on one end, a clear reservoir tank in the middle, and a mouthpiece. 

E-cigarettes contain a solution of water, dissolved nicotine and flavoring ingredients that are heated by a battery-powered device. This vaporizes the nicotine solution, which passes into a mouthpiece and is inhaled in a manner similar to regular cigarettes. Often, glycerol or propylene glycol is added to the solution to give the appearance of smoke when the solution is vaporized. 

The email stated that there was a potential for students to be exposed to toxic ingredients inside the vaporized solution, and the e-cigarettes could carry controlled substances.

“We found that it was still disrupting classes because the scent that is released from the vapor … you don’t know what type of ingredients they are putting in.”

Provenzano said OCC officials researched the risks and benefits of e-cigarettes and vaping and took it “very seriously.”

“At first blush, most people would say vaping is harmless and shouldn’t be as harmful as cigarette smoke,” Provenzano said. “(It was) an eye-opening result for us, and (we) concluded that they are just as disruptive to our classes as cigarette smoke; we’ve been receiving complaints from other campuses (about its usage).”

He added that a lot of times people would smoke e-cigarettes in hallways, but the scent travels into rooms; this would occur for people smoking outside as well.

“People would stand outside thinking that they are being courteous, but lo and behold, it seems like they would stand right outside (near the) heating and cooling system and our system would ... redistribute that into the building — people do it innocently.”

Skyhlaer Carr, an Orchard Ridge second-year student, said on campus March 3 that while she is a nonsmoker, she isn’t against the smell of smoke.

“I don’t ever smell smoke (on campus),” the Oak Park resident said.

When she attended the Royal Oak Campus, Carr said she smelled smoke there.

“The smell doesn’t bother me; I’m used to it,” she added.

Renee Wade, an Orchard Ridge second-year student from Waterford, said in the King Library March 3 that as a nonsmoker, she is ecstatic about the updated policy because she has dealt with secondhand smoke on campus.

“I have asthma and my asthma doctor said (e-cigarettes) put particles in the air,” she said. “When I saw the (no smoking) signs I was like, ‘Yes.’”

Wade added that even when people would smoke outside, she would have to go through a cloud of smoke and she would have subsequent asthma attacks.

Social media responses to the updated policy included 37 Facebook “likes” and 12 “favorites” on Twitter, according to OCC official Bridget M. Kavanaugh, who said there was mostly favorable feedback and a small number of negative comments. 

One person wrote that one of their largest motivators to making the switch from tobacco to e-cigarettes was because vaping wasn’t banned, which led to them quitting nicotine. 

“Your updated anti-smoking policy provides no reward for making the switch to a safer alternative,” the poster wrote.

Provenzano said that he has not heard any negative feedback from anyone, and that college public safety officials are in charge of enforcement.

“Really, everybody shares in that responsibility,” he said. “Our goal is to enforce compliance, not punitive (measures) as much as we want to encourage compliance.”

Any concerns may be brought to the attention of campus deans and public safety.

For more information go to www.oaklandcc.edu.