Juul story graphic

Penn State community members have had their heads in the clouds for about a year or so now. Far from everybody is satisfied about it, though.

The vaporizer trend — smoking from electronic devices like a vape or Juul—has swept through Penn State over the past few years. The devices, commonly serving as alternatives to cigarettes, have not only brought anger and frustration to some, but confusion to many as to what is and isn’t “allowed” when it comes to smoking on the University Park campus.

As the community’s opinions continue to divide on the issue, the University Park Undergraduate Association has been working to create a “tobacco and smoke-free campus” policy. It hopes it will be given the green light to implement next school year.

According to UPUA Vice President Alex Shockley, the policy itself would aim to eliminate the existing designated smoking areas on campus and making all 24 Penn State campuses tobacco and smoke-free by the fall 2018 semester.

Shockley (senior-hospitality management) emphasized the task force behind the policy doesn’t want it to become about people “policing” one another, but that it is designed for students, faculty and staff to generate “positive encouragement and positive reinforcement” that gives “individual[s] the power to speak out.”

Students around campus — vape and Juul lovers, loathers and indifferent individuals alike — weighed in on the matters at hand, what’s wrong now and what should be done about the use of electronic smoking devices moving forward at Penn State.

UPUA Weekly Meeting, Alex Shockley

Alex Schockly, UPUA Vice President, addresses the assembly during the UPUA weekly meetings at the HUB-Robeson Center on Wednesday, Oct. 4, 2017.

Be courteous, be healthy

Rob LaBricciosa doesn’t vape. He doesn’t Juul either.

He can’t afford to partake in either because he’s had a string of family illnesses directly caused by smoking.

Even though LaBricciosa (junior-CAS) chooses not to vape or Juul, he has no problem with others who do — as long as they’re mindful of the individuals around them.

“I don’t have a problem if you vape. I’m not someone who’s like ‘Oh you’re the devil [for doing that,’” LaBricciosa said. “It’s just when you’re walking down the street and someone has it and they puff out smoke, it’s going to naturally go back and hit you in the face.”

LaBricciosa claims he tries to remain objective and see not only his perspective but the perspectives of vaporizer smokers.

But some of his personal experiences have been “nuisances” to him and those surrounding.

He claims one of the more notable instances he’s had with unpleasant second-hand vape smoke occurred in the student section at Beaver Stadium, an on-campus facility where smoking is strictly prohibited inside.

“Someone was standing right in front of me [vaping in close proximity]. When it’s a huge group of people around you, it’s just common courtesy [to refrain from smoking],” LaBricciosa said. “I asked the guy to leave and he said ‘What are you talking about?’ and I said ‘You need to put it away or you can go somewhere else.’ We almost got into a little bit of a fight.”

Vaping on Campus

There are an increasing number of students who vape on campus.

Like LaBricciosa, Shockley highlights the health, courtesy and safety of others that becomes jeopardized when individuals choose to vape or Juul on campus.

Shockley claims community health, in addition to courtesy, is the driving force behind the push for the tobacco and smoke-free initiative.

“We’re really trying to focus on the overall health and well-being regardless of what the product is,” Shockley said. “The idea is that any product you’re putting into your body that then [creates] a smoke that may affect others, whether it is or isn’t bad for you, is affecting [non-smoking individuals’] mutual decisions to say ‘Yes, I want to be around that.’”

No one’s going to follow the rules anyway

On-and-off vape user Ron Feinberg understands that inconsiderate vaporizer smokers do exist, and positive changes in their behaviors could better suit the Penn State community.

What Feinberg (sophomore-graphic design) is bothered by are individuals who create commotion about people who do smoke electronically in a respectful manner.

“If you take a hit of a vape or a Juul, especially a Juul, [the smoke] is going to disperse within a matter of seconds,” Feinberg said. “So these people that are getting offended and putting complaints into the school [when people are vaping respectfully], I feel like it’s kind of unnecessary.”

Feinberg also disagrees with the stigma that people who vape are “wild,” or doing it solely to bother others. To him, most people smoking from vapes or Juuls are doing it solely for themselves, whether it to kick a smoking habit or just because.

“No one is doing this to bother anyone,” Feinberg said. “People are [smoking from vaporizers] because… they’re either quitting smoking… or they’re using it as a smoking alternative. People have these polar opposite [beliefs, as well as practices on vaping], and we need to try to find a midpoint between them.”

Like Feinberg, Student and Valley Vapes employee Evan Morson does understand what makes vaping unpleasant to others, such as having “a giant vape cloud blown in your face that’s been in [someone’s] body.”

BOT Eric Barron

President Eric Barron speaks about the budget and tuition during the first meeting of the academic year is held at the Penn State Hotel and Conference Center on Friday, Sept. 15, 2017.

In a separate regard, though, he sees transitioning the campus to tobacco and smoke-free as a potential roadblock to students, faculty and staff who are trying to quit smoking via vaporizer devices.

“It’s kind of a terrible thing when you see kids get on cigarettes and they can’t quit,” Morson (junior-film) said. “But vaping really helps them [kick the habit].”

Additionally, Morson doesn’t see how the university could undergo the tobacco and smoke free policy, as he doesn’t see people who are smoking vaporizers, or cigarettes, stopping what they’re doing any time soon.

Penn State currently has designated smoking area across campus, mainly in front of dormitory entrances, or seated areas on walkways between dormitory entrances.

LaBricciosa, Feinberg and Morson were unaware the university had designated smoking spots to begin with.

“There’s going to be a bunch of people who are still going to do it no matter what,” Morson said. “I went to [Penn State] Berks campus for a year-and-a-half and they had designated smoke spots people used with no real issues. I think [University Park] should just stick to that.”

POLL

Do you think the tobacco, smoke-free policy will pass?

You voted:

How likely is it that the policy will actually be passed?

Though many people are in favor of it, the tobacco and smoke-free policy isn’t guaranteed to be implemented at Penn State quite yet.

According to Shockley, the most recent resolution from the designated tobacco and smoke-free task force received UPUA’s full support, as well as support from student government and faculty senate. He also noted that in the time Penn State President Eric Barron previously served as president of Florida State University, the institution went tobacco and smoke-free during his term.

Shockley claims every time Barron has spoken of the possibility of Penn State going smoke and tobacco free, he’s spoken positively of it.

“So far everyone’s supported it, students have supported it, faculty have supported it. At the end of the day it’s up to President Barron and his president’s council to make the final decision, so right now that’s what we’re waiting on,” Shockley said. “I’m optimistic.”

If you're interested in submitting a Letter to the Editor, click here.