UM adds e-cigarettes to tobacco-free policy

The University of Montana has added e-cigarettes to its Tobacco Free UM Policy. The policy change reflects the University’s commitment to a tobacco-free campus and providing a safe and healthy environment for its employees, students and visitors.

“When we first passed the tobacco-free campus policy, we didn’t include e-cigarettes because we didn’t have enough research on how they impacted health,” said Linda Green, wellness director at UM’s Curry Health Center. “Now we know more about the potential health risks of solvents and flavorings in vaping liquids. Diacetyl, a chemical linked to serious lung disease, is used as a flavoring.”

According to UM’s most recent National College Health Assessment, the percentage of UM students who reported daily e-cigarette use doubled in the past two years from 1.1 to 2.2 percent. Similarly, students who reported using e-cigarettes at least once in the past month more than doubled over the past two years from 3.7 to 7.6 percent.

Green said UM is committed to creating a healthier, more-accessible environment for employees, students and visitors, supporting quitters and reducing the number of new smokers. The surgeon general has stated that there is no safe level of secondhand smoke.

“The tobacco policy not only protects everyone’s right to breathe clean air, it also creates an environment in which smokers are more likely to try to quit and succeed in doing so,” said Kaila Warren, senior community health specialist in the Tobacco Prevention Program at the Missoula City-County Health Department.

The policy update supports the objectives of the Tobacco Free policy and works to reduce exposure to secondhand smoke on campus.

“The other real health concern with vaping pens and e-cigs is the fact that there have been numerous explosions from the lithium-ion batteries, resulting in many injuries and one death,” Green said.

As a part of celebrating seven years as a tobacco-free campus, Tobacco Free Missoula County and Curry Health Center Wellness will sponsor giveaways at the Saturday, Oct. 6, Homecoming football game at UM.

“Tobacco Free Missoula County and Curry Health Center Wellness invite the public to celebrate being Montana Strong, as well as Tobacco Free,” Green said.

“Incorporating e-cigarettes into the policy is a step in the right direction when it comes to prevention,” Warren said. “Air that is free of both smoke and e-cigarette aerosol should be the goal and standard for public health.”