While fewer teens are smoking, more are getting a nicotine fix from electronic cigarettes, according to a report issued last month by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Nearly 3 percent of high school students said they have tried e-cigarettes, up from nearly 2 percent the previous year, according to the report.
While the numbers are still small, we agree with groups working to prevent teens from becoming smokers that claim it's the beginning of a dangerous trend and warn the devices could be a gateway to cigarettes.
E-cigs, which aren't federally regulated, do not burn tobacco. Instead, users inhale a liquid that contains nicotine, derived from the tobacco leaf, and other chemicals. In essence, the devices are getting young people in the habit of using a drug, delivered through a device that looks similar to a cigarette.
Any measure to discourage their use by teenagers and young people is a good idea.
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That's why we're pleased that the University of South Carolina Beaufort already bans the use of e-cigarettes in its campus buildings and within 25 feet of them. Because the devices are classified as tobacco products by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, they are subject to the school's tobacco policies.
University officials are considering banning all smoking and tobacco products anywhere on campus -- a move we commend to ensure students get the message that they don't need these crutches.
At least 10 S.C. schools already have bans in place. And on Wednesday, USC's main Columbia campus will join their ranks.
We have high hopes USCB will soon follow suit with a ban of its own. Arguments will certainly continue on whether the devices are dangerous and how they should be regulated by the FDA, but USCB can do something now to discourage nicotine reliance.
The habits students develop today can last a lifetime. Universities can play a role in setting the standard for healthy behavior.