As a new ban against electronic cigarettes takes effect in New York, Binghamton University students who use vaping devices are preparing to find alternate ways to purchase flavored pods.
The state-wide ban, the result of an emergency executive action signed by Gov. Andrew Cuomo, was announced at a press conference on Sunday, and aims to eliminate fruit- and candy-flavored e-cigarettes that some believe have led young people to become addicted to nicotine.
”New York is confronting this crisis head-on and today, we are taking another nation-leading step to combat a public health emergency,” Cuomo said.
Michigan delivered the same ban earlier this month after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said nearly 400 people around the country have been stricken with a lung disease potentially rooted in vaping. The illness has led to six deaths.
Erin Monroe, college prevention coordinator for Binghamton University’s Health Promotion and Prevention Services, said she feels the ban could lead to positive changes for future college students.
”This ban could be an effective measure at preventing early onset use of e-cigarettes in middle- and high school-aged students,” Monroe said. ”I believe this legislation is targeted toward that middle- or high school-aged individual who may be enticed by flavorings, but has never necessarily used a nicotine delivery system.”
But Jasmin Randhawa, a junior majoring in business administration, said the ban has not caused her to consider quitting.
”Personally, the ban hasn’t affected me, because e-cigs are so prevalent in Binghamton, and I think bans take a while to reach this town,” Randhawa said. ”The ban itself hasn’t made me think about quitting … [but] I constantly hear that many students are trying to quit, which is great, because it’ll only work if we all come together and stop hitting e-cigs as a University.”
Still, she said she expects counterfeit pods to begin showing up on campus through dealers that already provide pods with illegal additives, such as THC and vitamin E acetate. Because counterfeit pods are sold outside of official vape shops and have no controls imposed on them, they often pose a health risk that regular pods do not.
“I think drug dealers will definitely pick up selling flavored e-cigs, because it’s a very profitable market, since consumers get addicted and need more,” Randhawa said.
Zachary Pinto, a junior triple-majoring in economics, mathematics and philosophy, also said he doesn’t think students, faculty and administrators will see a decrease in vaping on campus.
”The emergency executive order obviously has good intentions, and too many students are vaping today,” Pinto said. ”But a top-down approach like this one likely won’t have a huge effect. Sure, you want to ban fruit flavors? Well, tomorrow, you’ll see a knockoff for half the price.”
New York previously attempted to curb e-cigarette use among young people by raising the legal age to buy vaping and tobacco products to 21 in April. Pinto said that effort is a good example of how ineffective bans and restrictions can be, because they often push users toward other sources.
“I’ve seen this after the last vaping ban, and I’m sure I’ll see it again,” Pinto said. “We won’t see much of a decrease of vaping on campus, as people can already buy knockoffs or buy it off their friends.”
Randhawa said many students already find a way around the age requirement to buy e-cigarettes.
”Raising the purchasing age of tobacco to 21 sounds reassuring, but realistically, it [doesn’t] work,” Randhawa said. ”Many students find their way around age limits, and, in fact, it might make tobacco more popular, as young kids would find it cool to smoke — something like reverse psychology.”
Monroe said she is hopeful about the ban’s implications, but recognizes the prevalence of e-cigarettes and vaping within the BU community.
”When it comes to prevention work, there is no one thing that can be done to stop or prevent use,” Monroe said. ”This legislation may be a piece of the prevention puzzle, but it’s not a stand-alone solution. My hope is that students that haven’t initiated use will continue not to use. I think our student body wants to make informed decisions, and more scientific research is needed on the specific health concerns of e-cigs.”