Despite the fact the University of Michigan has been a smoke-free campus since 2011, it is not uncommon to see someone smoking in the Diag, raising questions of the effectiveness of the policy. Now, many students are saying the use of electronic cigarettes, which are portable, quiet and almost odorless, across campus is on the rise.
In January of 2015, the University libraries implemented a “no electronic cigarette” policy after recognizing a spike in the usage of electronic cigarettes in the libraries. The policy was created with the University Smoke-Free Campus initiative and Tobacco-Free College Campus Initiative, which provides resources to cigarette users interested in quitting.
Stephen Griffes, a senior manager in Library Operations, explained each individual library department makes the decision as to whether electronic cigarettes are included under the “no smoking” policy.
“If we receive complaints from library users or if we see someone smoking an electronic cigarette, our Library Operations staff inform the user smoking the e-cigarette of the policy,” Griffes said. “In almost every case, the person indicates that they were unaware of the policy and ceases using their electronic cigarette upon request.”
LSA junior Brad, who requested his last name remain anonymous due to his violation of University code, started using the Juul as an alternative to cigarettes about a month ago at tailgates. Because the Juul is sleek, small and discreet, he said he has used it in the Shapiro Undergraduate Library while studying.
“I used to do it very sarcastically, like, ‘Hahaha, I’m smoking my Juul in the UGLi,’” he said. “I think it’s becoming more so acceptable. I see a lot of people Juuling in the UGLi. It’s not that I’m craving it, it’s just that whenever I have it on me, it is just natural to put it to my mouth. When I don’t have it, it’s out of sight, out of mind.”
Steve, a University Business junior, also found the Juul to be a useful study aid. The Juul started as crutch to quit smoking cigarettes and marijuana, but shortly afterward became something more.
“Sometimes (the Juul) just helps me focus; keeps me wired or serves as a little mental extra kick when I’m studying, which is usually in the library. I always have it on me because sometimes it helps with anxiety, so I have it available every time I study, but I probably only use it one of three times,” he said.
Kent Berridge, professor of psychology and neuroscience at the University, studies the basic brain mechanisms of desires and full-fledged addiction. He said e-cigarettes can be as addictive as the generic cigarette if used in similar patterns. However, he noted e-cigarettes may not pose as great of a threat of cancer and lung disease as regular cigarettes do.
“E-cigarettes deliver all the right combination of cues, sensory experiences and pulses of nicotine needed to be addictive, especially if used in intermittent binge-like patterns that deliver high doses,” Berridge said. “That’s not to say that everyone who uses them will become addicted. There are powerful individual differences in susceptibility to addiction. Many people, and probably most, who try them will remain able to give them up without much difficulty.”
Currently, the main University campus has only banned “combustible tobacco products” according to the Smoke-Free Campus initiative website. All tobacco products, including e-cigarettes, are banned from medical campuses.
Brad described waking up after smoking a cigarette as feeling like “rocks on my chest.” The Juul, however, has not had the same effect, making it an attractive alternative, he said.
“I am probably addicted, I am addicted. Am I concerned about the health risks? I know that they’re there, but I know it’s a better alternative than cigarettes,” he said.