The following editorial published in the “Abilene Reporter-News” on Oct. 3:
The Texas A&M University System has taken a hard line against vaping, prohibiting it on all of its properties – not just its 11 universities. To fully appreciate how big a deal this is, consider that Texas has 254 counties and A&M’s brand can be found somewhere within 250 of them. In addition to the school campuses, there are all the agricultural extension service facilities and a health science center.
It means that the ban isn’t just for college students.
Is this “nanny-statism”?
You could look at it that way. It infringes on the rights of individuals to indulge in unhealthy but legal behavior.
But you also could look at it as A&M’s exercise of its property rights. A&M isn’t saying you can’t vape on property not owned by the A&M System – though clearly for your own good and the good of those around you, A&M wishes you wouldn’t.
And there’s yet another way to look at it, still from the issue of individual rights, and that’s from the standpoint of an individual’s right not to breathe someone else’s secondhand vape. That’s how we look at both vape and smoke from old-fashioned cigarettes, cigars and pipes. Nonsmokers and non-vapers shouldn’t have to breathe vape or smoke, both of which harm human health. It should not be one of the hazards of venturing into a public park or onto a public sidewalk. We hope you agree. Vape-related deaths are increasing.
How unique is A&M’s ban?
If you Google “Have any colleges or universities banned vaping?” it’ll tell you 1,886 colleges prohibit vaping. That includes the flagship University of Texas System. The UT System banned tobacco from all 14 of its institutions by June 2017. Its policy, like A&M’s, includes e-cigarettes and vaping.
Where else is vaping banned?
Massachusetts banned all vape products, and Oregon’s governor is considering it. Michigan just banned flavored vape, and other states and cities are considering flavored-vape-only bans. Flavored vape is recognized to be a gateway to hooking children on nicotine. Banning it is a less politically risky feel-good step. It has merit but not nearly as much as a full ban.
Where do most people stand?
Eight in 10 people agree that nobody under 21 should be allowed to buy vaping devices, according to a USA TODAY/Ipsos poll. Fifty-nine percent say a ban on vaping products will steer users to the black market. Eighty-two percent of vapers see it that way, and 72% of vapers say government regulations won’t reduce the number of users, according to another survey.
These results show how a poll respondent’s vested interests can affect the outcome. We can’t know how bans will work until they’re tried. But, wonder of wonders, vapers are more likely to say that policies or laws that make it harder for them to vape will fail. Surprised?
Any upsides to vaping?
There are anecdotal accounts of smokers who couldn’t quit until they used vaping to wean themselves. A recent study found that vaping helps smokers quit cigarettes, but the risk of relapse is high. Another study found that 80% of smokers who quit with the help of vaping don’t quit vaping.
Bottom line: Vaping is one of many harmful habits that regulation can’t stop completely. But if it succeeds in reducing the problem, it’s worth it. Public policy should err on the side of protecting the rights of non-vapers and the long-term health of children. Our university systems have a sizable under-21 population to protect. Also 21 and older. The positive impact of vaping bans could be huge.