Confusion on statewide smoking ban

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Shortly after the fall 2018 semester started, signs popped up all over the University of Northern Colorado campus informing students about the recent ban on smoking and vaping. Photo by Amy Golden.

Gov. John Hickenlooper signed an executive order in early November which banned smoking and vaping both in state-owned buildings and on state-owned grounds, including public universities like the University of Northern Colorado.

Signs have gone up all around campus at the university informing students of this ban, citing executive order B 2018-011, Hickenlooper’s last motion as governor. The signs read: “Sale and use of tobacco products, vaping products and e-cigarettes are prohibited in all UNC buildings and on all grounds.”

The ban targets vapes and e-cigarettes, including Juul, a popular type of e-cigarette that contains a highly concentrated form of nicotine. One focus of the order to create smoke-free campuses, both indoors and outdoors.

UNC Police Chief Dennis Pumphrey said that enforcement of this ban will likely be handled through administrative processes.

“We’re still gathering information about what the ban means for UNC,” Pumphrey said. “But the police department will have a minimal role in enforcement actions regarding the smoking ban.”

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The state of Colorado has been reported as having the highest rate of teen vaping of 37 states surveyed, at twice the national average, according to the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment.

This executive order was also signed only a few weeks before Juul announced they would suspend the sales of most of their flavored pods and discontinue social media promotions after increasing pressure from the Food and Drug Administration.

These changes come at a time of uncertainty over the increased popularity in these products for young adults and the possible health effects they could have.

“The vaping trend is very real and frightening, and we’re grateful to Governor Hickenlooper and to the state for taking steps to help our youth stay healthy and avoid a lifetime of nicotine addiction,” said Amy Sass, a physician who specializes in Adolescent Medicine at Children’s Hospital Colorado.

The executive order also makes suggestions for upcoming legislature to handle, making the regulation of the devices more similar to the sale of alcohol and marijuana. Suggestions include extending the excise tax to e-cigarettes, vapes and liquids; requiring licensing for the sale of these devices; raising the minimum age to purchase to 21; and prohibiting the sale of flavored tobacco and vaping products.

“To lead the nation in youth vaping is intolerable,” said Hickenlooper.  “Collectively, we can help ensure families better understand the lifetime health impact of vaping at a young age and work to decrease the number of youths turning to this popular, yet problematic, form of nicotine.”

While students may not have felt the effects of the executive order on UNC’s campus yet, the push towards increased regulation on these products is clear. The university police and administration say they are still deciding the best way to execute this order.

“The order came out rapidly, so we are still working through it and seeing what changes might need to be made to enforce it,” Pumphrey said.

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