E-cigarettes are a smoke screen

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Cartoon by Wendy Gracia

Smoking is banned on the Southwestern College campus, save for a few designated areas near parking lots. Smokers of electronic cigarettes, however, seem to feel they are exempt.

SWC’s governing board has not made policy on e-cigs yet, but when it does it should give them a break, at least for a couple years. Allowing e-cigs on campus, ironically, could help end cigarette smoking completely.

Electronic cigarette use is growing. It delivers a controllable nicotine dosage and in a flashy package. Instead of using a lighter, the device heats nicotine liquid and converts it to mist called “vapor.” E-cigarettes are the Prius of smoking. They are compact, efficient and with fewer emissions. They generate less trash from packaging and not butts.

Less combustion means less second hand smoke. There is little smell and does less damage to teeth. E-cigarettes cause minimal harm to those around them.

Smokers are able to customize nicotine levels and can dial down the highly addictive drug until they reach zero and have kicked the habit.

For some people smoking is an aesthetic choice. E-cigs provide a new option that is less harmful. A Chinese company called Ruyan first introduced the devices in China in 2004 as smoking cessation tools and remained a small industry of a few independent companies until 2010, when Big Tobacco started cashing in.

Use of E-cigarettes as a medical tool for smoking cessation is controversial. Because it is a relatively new industry, long-term affects are unknown. Some former smokers reported the tool as a way of successfully quitting.

E-cigarettes are also not subject to advertising restrictions like traditional cigarettes. An advertisement for Blu e-cigarettes aired during the 2011 Super Bowl, the first TV ad for a tobacco product in 46 years.

Regulators should ban sweet flavors such as cinnamon, chocolate or waffles that may entice children to smoke. Devices are currently available to minors on the Internet and at mall kiosks.

Irony aside, tobacco giants Marlboro, Camel and Newport have rolled out Mark Ten, Vuse and Blu E-cigarettes, but as technology not smokes. Costco carries Blu E-cigs right next to the HD TVs and digital cameras. Devices are $30-$200. A 30-milliliter bottle of vapor liquid is the equivalent of 50 packs of cigarettes and costs $10-20.

San Diego County’s Board of Supervisors has waded into the fray. Supervisors voted this month to have County staff study regulation options. Staff is scheduled to present recommendations in February.

The University of California system has already banned E-cigarettes on its campuses.

SWC should allow e-cigs, at least for the time being. They are a bit cleaner and less hazy than the stubborn cigarette dinosaur. E-cigs could help smoking finally go extinct.

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