Proposed ban on e-cigarettes excessive

Sean C. Morgan

The School Board has been handed the responsibility to decide whether to ban e-cigarettes, or personal vaporizers, completely from all school grounds all the time.

The proposed policy came with a batch of routine policy updates from the Oregon School Boards Association. I have asked the board to consider next week a more reasonable policy to the healthier smoking alternative, used by a small handful of us so far in the Sweet Home community.

The board certainly should regulate the use of e-cigarettes around students; but these are not cigarettes and do not deserve the same attention as cigarettes. They carry a substance, nicotine, that arguably may not be much more dangerous than caffeine. So far, we would never dream of banning caffeinated coffee from school buildings, even in front of children.

Smoking – More accurately, “vaping” e-cigarettes simply means that the “vaper” inhales vapor generated by a small battery-powered heating element that superheats the e-juice, turning it into the vapor. Most use propylene glycol, a substance used in fog machines at concerts and plays, as well as many foods and medicines.

The danger in cigarettes, the reason our society has managed to work itself into a tizzy over them, is the smoke, which contains more than 4,000 chemicals and 40 to 60 carcinogens – depending on your source.

E-cigarettes contain a small handful of substances. Carcinogens are barely detectable and far below dangerous levels, according to a New Zealand study paid for by one of the manufacturers.

An FDA study found one sample from one company contained diethylene glycol, a component of anti-freeze. Since then, we’ve heard how these products contain anti-freeze. That brand doesn’t have the best reputation among “vapers” anyway, but the fact it was there is disturbing to all of us, just like finding impurities in food or anything else we might reasonably ingest.

The rest of the samples contained the proper ingredients, inm particular, propylene glycol, a substance that hasn’t been tested for sustained inhalation but has been tested in just about every other way, a substance that is deemed safe by the FDA. The e-juice also contains mainly distilled water, flavorings and nicotine. An alternative uses vegetable glycerin instead of propylene glycol. There is no smoke.

When a smoker turns to the e-cigarette full time, he or she gains all of the benefits of quitting smoking – improved body odor, improved breathing, improved sense of taste and smell. The infamous smoker’s cought is gone. In my case, I wake up energized in the morning, something I hadnt done for 20 years smoking a pack and a quarter per day.

It should be obvious that e-cigarettes have little in common with the tobacco variety except that they are nicotine delivery systems, just like a cup of coffee delivers caffeine. They pose nowhere near the threat of burning tobacco. The simplest among us should be able to see it.

The proposed policy would ban e-cigarettes from even the pockets of an e-smoker, like me, when on school grounds. Folks may not realize it, but every time someone drives onto school property with a butt in the ash tray or a pack of cigarettes in the pocket, he or she violates the district policy and state law. That is unreasonable and, obviously, unenforced, but we don’t need to apply it to the far less dangerous alternative, e-cigarettes.

The School Board should selectively ban the use of e-cigarettes, primarily in school buildings during school and at school-sponsored activities, partially because of its appearance (Mine don’t look anything like cigarettes) and because we don’t need to promote the use of nicotine at all among our children. In off hours, it’s certainly reasonable for people using the fields or attending the Jamboree to use e-cigarettes.

While the School Board may want to avoid promoting e-cigarettes because the FDA has not approved them as a “smoking cessation device,” it might step out of the way and allow smoking employees to improve their own health by switching to the alternative.

If using the e-cigarette is more convenient to district employees and they do not need to leave school property to smoke, the employees may choose to switch to vaping, drastically improving their day-to-day health and reducing the risk of smoking-related diseases — potentially improving their work performance.