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Libraries install new signs on vaping policy

The signage references a longstanding policy prohibiting vaping inside U.Va. buildings

Using JUULs, a form of e-cigarette,  indoors is prohibited on Grounds.
Using JUULs, a form of e-cigarette, indoors is prohibited on Grounds.

Facilities Management installed additional signage outside of libraries this week in order to draw attention to the University’s prohibition on smoking and vaping inside buildings on Grounds. The installation of signs comes partially in response to the rising popularity of JUULs, a type of vapor-based e-cigarette containing nicotine widely-used by college students. 

The University’s Policy SEC-028, which has been in place since 2008, explicitly states that “smoking and vaping by faculty, staff, students, and visitors are prohibited inside facilities owned or leased by the University.” 

The policy is part of the University’s compliance with the 1990 Virginia Indoor Clean Air Act. It is next up for review in October of 2018. 

Vaping is also prohibited within 25 feet of all entries and operable windows, as well as any place where vapor can “enter and affect the internal environment.” 

These policy details are listed on the new signs, which were posted outside the entrances to Alderman Library, Clemons Library, the Fine Arts Library and the Harrison Institute/Small Special Collections building. 

Though the policy has been in place for a decade, its enforcement has recently met some obstacles due to the increasingly common practice of JUULing within University facilities.

“The beginning of this semester there were a couple of instances where students weren’t trying to be particularly subtle about it or anything,” said Katie Densberger, the director of the Georges Student Center on the second floor of Clemons Library. “[In] the little glass rooms down here one of them looked like fog on the top of a mountain, just full of vapor.” 

Those incidents prompted Densberger to work with Facilities Management in adding signage on Clemons’ second floor. 

“If students really don’t know that you’re not supposed to [vape], which I find a little hard to believe, you’ll see a sign and you’ll know and maybe you won’t do it.” Densberger said. “If there’s people who are sitting next to someone who’s doing it … if they see a sign then maybe they’ll feel a power to tell someone to cut it out when they wouldn’t have otherwise.” 

Kristy Davis, an industrial hygienist with the Office of Environmental Health and Safety, said she thinks the problem has been successfully contained thus far.

“It seems like people who are indulging in those activities or with those products are obviously being quite discreet, in my opinion,” Davis said, “It doesn’t seem to have become an issue, at least in terms of bringing it to our attention.”

Jeff Hill, director of Communications for University Libraries, said the indoor use of e-cigarettes hasn’t been a major disciplinary issue.

“In the instances that we’ve encountered it, we’ve reminded the person vaping of University policy, and they’ve stopped — it hasn’t been a problem,” Hill said in an email to The Cavalier Daily. “If someone wants to smoke or vape, they just need to walk outside.” 

Nonetheless, the health risks associated with JUULs and other e-cigarettes remain unclear. 

“There does seem to be a lack of education, especially for younger people who may not be aware that there are no long-term studies on the hazards of these chemicals and added fragrances,” Davis said. 

The University is joining a number of other educational institutions working to address the vaping trend. Currently, universities in Arkansas and Illinois are required to have e-cigarette-free campuses. More than 700 colleges across 44 states have banned e-cigarettes on campus completely. 

At the University, the additional signage has been installed to educate the student body about existing University policy. 

“Some places just need to update their signage to include vaping, since we haven’t needed ‘No Smoking’ signs in so many years,” Densberger said. “I suspect it will get better as people hopefully realize that you’re really not supposed to be doing it inside.”