Arizona Board of Regents to implement ban on vaping products on university campuses

(Anya Magnuson/DD)

The Arizona Board of Regents is considering a ban on the sale and use of vaping products on public university property, including, but not limited to, campuses.

The state’s three major public universities, Arizona State University, Northern Arizona University and the University of Arizona, all have enacted their own smoking policies prohibiting the use of tobacco products on campus, including e-cigarettes.

The Arizona Board of Regents proposal would change the existing code of conduct by introducing a formal policy against vaping and smoking. The proposal would also ban the sale of tobacco products on all university property.

At a board meeting Nov. 21, Regent Fred DuVal argued vaping products, while originally created to reduce cigarette smoking, have been marketed toward kids.

“The idea of vaping started as, I think to some, in good faith to help people transition off of tobacco to a less harmful alternative, but vaping has, without question, intentionally and effectively been marketed to kids and to students around the United States,” DuVal said during the meeting.

The proposal comes at a time when concerns about youth vaping has risen with the number of suspected vaping-related respiratory illnesses across the nation.

The Arizona Department of Health Services reported 17 cases of suspected vaping-related respiratory illnesses in Arizona as of 2019. While no deaths have been reported in the state, the Department of Health Services reported that 47 deaths have been confirmed in 25 states and the District of Columbia.

While companies like JUUL Labs advertise that their product is meant for adults who want to reduce cigarette use or quit altogether, some health care professionals like Maureen Roland, the managing director for the Banner Poison and Drug Information Center, argue that flavors like mint, mango and cotton candy are marketed toward young people.

“As far as the vaping liquids that don’t have the nicotine in (them), even those have a lot of different chemicals that can be really harmful,” Roland said. “The FDA is starting to get more involved because we’re having this increase with the vaping related lung injuries and even some fatalities. They’re still trying to figure out exactly what it is that (companies) put in there that is causing this to happen.”

Arizona state law currently prohibits the sale and possession of vapor products by those under 18, but young people are still gaining access to e-cigarettes.

Roland said vaping can eventually lead to a dependency on nicotine, a highly addictive substance.

Vaping can cause respiratory issues and can also stunt the growth of young lungs, she said.

“Nicotine is extremely addictive and we worry… (about) becoming (addicted) to that nicotine at early ages,” Roland said. “When you’re inhaling, it can certainly, in the youth, cause increased risk of respiratory illnesses, asthma (and) it can affect the growth of the lungs. It’s certainly something we really want to keep away from the youth.”

During the board’s meeting on Nov. 21, DuVal said it needs to send a clear message that “vaping and tobacco is a stupid choice.”

DuVal cited the fact that regulation would make obtaining and using tobacco products more inconvenient for students.

“I am mindful that any restriction raises the issue of whether we are inappropriately regulating personal liberty and I am mindful of that. This is a suggested prohibition of sale and use on campus. It makes access to the product simply more inconvenient,” DuVal said.

According to the Arizona Department of Health Services, 51 percent of Arizona high school students have tried e-cigarettes. Vapes have led to an increase in youth smoking across the country.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website, the use of tobacco products by high schoolers grew by 38.3 percent between 2017 and 2018.

The Arizona Board of Regents and public universities aren’t the only ones enforcing policies to combat rising vaping rates. Some school administrators have taken things into their own hands to facilitate conversations about substance abuse with students.

Robert Ryan, the principal of Brophy College Preparatory in Phoenix, said the school mainly targets their substance abuse programs toward freshmen students. Students talk about vaping in health class and are expected to meet with an adviser each month to talk through different personal issues.

Freshmen Brophy students also attend The Community of Concern, a 2 hour program that, according to Brophy’s website, is an event for parents and students “to discuss the high school social scene and to set goals towards a drug-free, alcohol-free high school career.”

Ryan said the program is designed to engage students and parents in conversations about substance abuse, which includes vaping, and gives parents the necessary tools to talk with their children.

“Over those two hours there are a series of presentations and a series of moments where at tables the students and parents are asked to talk about a variety of questions and engage in a dialogue,” Ryan said. “We believe we’re a partnership with parents, and so our job is to equip parents with tools to be the primary educator.”

Roland said with new information becoming available, health care professionals, parents and lawmakers alike are starting to see the effects of vaping on young lungs.

“I think they kind of marketed it as being a safer alternative to smoking which in essence it’s really not and we’re seeing that now,” Roland said. “Nicotine is nicotine, and it’s dangerous in either form.”

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