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The North Wind

The North Wind

The North Wind

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Katarina Rothhorn
Katarina Rothhorn
Features Writer

The first message I ever sent from my Northern Michigan University sanctioned email was to the editor-in-chief of the North Wind asking if there was any way I could join the staff. Classes hadn't even...

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The North Wind is an independent student publication serving the Northern Michigan University community. It is partially funded by the Student Activity Fee. The North Wind digital paper is published daily during the fall and winter semesters except on university holidays and during exam weeks. The North Wind Board of Directors is composed of representatives of the student body, faculty, administration and area media.

Students protest against Israel-Hamas war with campus encampment
Students protest against Israel-Hamas war with campus encampment
Dallas Wiertella April 30, 2024

E-cig policy still unclear on campus

Since Michigan’s indoor smoking ban was implemented last year, smokers have increasingly turned to electronic cigarettes to get their nicotine buzz indoors. While electronic cigarettes are allowed in most bars and restaurants, NMU currently has no policy either way on the cigarette substitute.

Electronic cigarettes are shaped like regular cigarettes and consist of a small rechargeable heating unit and a dose of liquid nicotine. The nicotine is heated into a vapor and then inhaled by the smoker, simulating a real cigarette, but without tobacco.

The product is marketed as emitting no harmful secondhand smoke, but questions have been raised as to whether electronic cigarettes are safe for consumption. In September of 2010, the FDA issued warning letters to five distributors of electronic cigarettes for “unsubstantiated claims and poor manufacturing practices.”

FDA regulations are important in determining whether or not a product is safe, said Sarah Derwin, a health educator at the Marquette County Health Department.

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“Everybody in the health field is taking a stand back from electronic cigarettes because they are not regulated by the FDA,” Derwin said.

Derwin said that one of the misconceptions about electronic cigarettes is that they should be used as a method to quit smoking. Because they recreate the smoking experience, it could be difficult for smokers to break their addiction, she said.

“One of my concerns is that it looks like a cigarette and feels like a cigarette. It could be easy to relapse and start smoking again,” Derwin said.

While there appears to be no harmful secondhand smoke emitted by electronic cigarettes, more information needs to be presented  before the product can be deemed safe for use, Derwin said.

“If someone asked me if it was safe, I would have to say no. There’s just not enough information yet,” she said.

NMU is still undecided on whether or not to allow electronic cigarettes to be used in university buildings, said Jeff Korpi, the assistant director of housing and residence life. There is currently no precedent to look back on to decide either way, he said. The student code restricts tobacco use in university-owned buildings, but nothing is included in the student code about nicotine products.

“We’re surveying peer institutions to see what’s been done. We’re also talking to the president’s round table to get their input,” Korpi said.

Lee Laforge, the manager of Book World in Marquette, is one of the local distributors of electronic cigarettes. The product is marketed as emitting no harmful secondhand smoke, and while the appearance of someone smoking indoors may turn some heads, he has never heard of someone being told they couldn’t smoke one indoors.

“When I flew to Ireland, I was allowed to use it on the plane, as long as I didn’t puff too hard and blow out a lot of vapor,” Laforge said.

Book World, which includes a section in the store that sells tobacco products, was one of the first places in the area to offer electronic cigarettes. The store is based in Appleton, Wisc., another smoke-free state, and has been offering them for almost two years. Laforge, who has successfully quit smoking for over five months, stresses that electronic cigarettes should be used as a nicotine substitute, and not as a quit smoking aid.

“That was the worry, that people would think electronic cigarettes are a way to quit smoking. For a true smoker, (holding a cigarette) is addicting,” Laforge said.

Laforge, also an adjunct teacher at NMU, recommends that anyone truly interested in dropping the habit of smoking contact the health promotions department. However, for anyone simply looking for a healthier way to get nicotine, electronic cigarettes may be the answer, he said. Laforge has seen parents come into the store and buy electronic cigarettes for their kids as a way to steer them away from the harmful chemicals in cigarettes.

“It’s not a healthy solution, but it is healthier (than cigarettes). With an electronic cigarette you are inhaling chemicals, but compared to a cigarette with over 500 chemicals, it’s different,” Laforge said.

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