In a bundle of contradiction, Bellevue College encourages healthful choices, but also encourages vaping and e-cigarette use. While marijuana and alcohol use are banned from campus, tobacco use is not only accepted outdoors on campus, it is encouraged. This encouragement comes in the form of smoke shacks, where nicotine users can meet up and light up. The shacks allow users to feed an addiction and also develop friendships with other users, socializing as they compromise their health and that of others passing too closely to the smoking shacks. “I have met many friends between classes, talking to other students while smoking,” said BC student Alex F.
It is precisely because BC encourages friendships based on smoking or vaping that these shacks should be removed. Smoking, vaping and e-cigarette use should be banned on campus.
Vaping and e-cigarettes quickly gained popularity, going from virtually unknown to being sold in every convenience store in record time. Many believe these are healthier alternatives to smoking cigarettes, but there are contrary studies. One of the most dangerous things about e-cigarettes is that they may keep people smoking conventional cigarettes, rather than encouraging them to quit. According to UC San Francisco professor Stanton Glantz, between 70 and 90 percent of e-cigarette users are dual users, meaning they continue to smoke regular cigarettes after they begin vaping.
It is surprising that a school that hosts an annual “Healthy Kids, Healthy Families” fair promoting healthful lifestyle choices, would allow smoking, vaping and e-cigarette use on campus. BC offers healthy vending machines and bicycle facilities to encourage healthy transportation to campus. Likewise, BC should steer students in the right direction for their futures, rather than encouraging students to socialize while they puff away on carcinogens.
While studies on vapes and e-cigarettes remain inconclusive, like cigarettes, they contain many different chemicals and carcinogens. “I know they are not healthy,” said Alex. When friends and colleagues partake, students are tempted to join in. “I would certainly vape less if my friends did not smoke,” said Alex.
BC bans other legal substances, presumably in the interest of health. BC’s website states “the use, possession, delivery, sale or being visibly under the influence of any alcoholic beverage” constitutes a violation of campus rules. In other words, although BC students who are 21 years old or older can legally purchase alcohol, they cannot carry an unopened alcoholic beverage on campus under any circumstance.
Likewise, according to its website, BC bans marijuana, another product that is legal under state law. Studies support that marijuana provides health benefits, while cigarettes do not. Yet BC not only allows smoking, vaping and e-cigarette use on campus, it provides smoking shacks to facilitate consumption.
Washington State law prohibits smoking in public places under RCW 70.160.030. The Washington State Department of Health explains, “the law prohibits smoking in all restaurants and bars […] bowling centers, skating rinks and non-tribal casinos […] and within 25 feet of entrances, exits, windows that open and ventilation intakes.” Perhaps this definition should include schools and universities.
Most elementary and high schools ban vaping, smoking and e-cigarette use, even for students who are 18 years of age, according to seattlenosmoke.org. Yet high school students studying at BC are not subject to such a ban while on campus. According to Exceptional Magazine, in 2014 BC had over 1,500 Running Start students. These students can easily share a cigarette in a smoking shack, or at least witness the joy and usage by their peers. This should not be permitted.
For students, faculty and administrators who do not want to inhale second hand smoke, the BC smoke shacks often prove problematic. They do not contain or filter the carcinogens, which drift across the BC campus, poisoning the air for those walking from their cars to their offices and classes. Second hand smoke is deadly and can cause a multitude of health issues. The CDC notes that millions of people have died from second hand smoke over the past decades. Yet BC allows its students to smoke, with others inhaling the 7,000 chemicals wafting into the fresh air.
It is time BC took a stance in favor of health for all its students by not allowing smoking, vaping or e-cigarette use on campus. At a minimum, the smoke shacks should be dismantled to discourage this addiction.