Smoker’s e-cigarette use extinguished on campus

Bill Michel

Senior Staff Writer

I smoked my last traditional cigarette on May 16. After being a smoker for 22 years, I looked at the empty pack of cigarettes that Wednesday night and said to myself, “I can’t smoke what I don’t buy.”

For the next eight days, I went cold turkey on my quest to be smoke-free. I appeared to be a raving lunatic in my nicotine-free rage. Not only was I craving the nicotine, but I was also missing the routine of smoking and the camaraderie I found with fellow smokers. In the amount of time it takes to inhale a full cigarette, a kinship can be formed.

Being smoke-free would allow me to live longer, in essence giving me more time to meet more people: a win-win situation, if you ask me.

Everybody I know said that replacing one routine for another usually works when attempting to quit smoking. After devouring a whole, large bag of hard candy in one day, in this case, it did not. I felt horrible after ingesting an amount of sugar only normal for characters in the movie “Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory.”

It was during my weekly visit to the Texaco station in my neighborhood that I noticed a display with an electronic cigarette. They have the same look and same feel of a traditional cigarette without all of those pesky carcinogens. Would this be my new win-win situation? I decided to buy one to find out.

The first puff was interesting to say the least. I felt like I was inhaling steam. Turns out, that is exactly what I was doing, except with nicotine involved.

With the summer over and my last two semesters at Brookhaven College approaching, I knew I would have no problem dealing with the campus-wide smoking ban. I thought I was exempt from the ban because I was using an e-cigarette that left me exhaling steam. While it looked the same and felt the same, it was totally different.

Walking by the packs of sweaty smokers huddled together in the late-August heat, I felt at ease walking into the air conditioned comfort of K Building with my e-cigarette in hand. I had not yet mastered blowing a vapor ring to rival the prize-worthy smoke rings of my past, but I was content knowing my nicotine addiction was being satisfied nonetheless.

Fall semester ended, and with the spring came the home stretch before transferring to the university of my choice as a non- smoker. With the new semester, I was looking forward to meeting new people and working with the Brookhaven Courier as a staff writer. What I was not looking forward to was the impending stress of taking seven classes in one semester.

It was shortly after a newspaper staff meeting that I felt the urge to take a puff off of my e-cigarette to calm my nerves. “You know you’re not supposed to do that on campus, right?” editor-in-chief Amy Price said. I was dumbfounded. Together we looked at the actual text of the smoking policy: “With the exception of designated parking lots, Brookhaven College is a smoke and tobacco-free campus. This includes but is not limited to the use of chewing tobacco and electronic cigarettes.”

I’m the guy who drives exactly 10 miles an hour through the parking lot. I’m the guy who turns in lost items to the campus police department. I’m the guy who tries his best to be an example, not the exception. But now, I’m the guy who has been flagrantly breaking the rules when it comes to my trusty e-cigarette. It is hard for me to wrap my brain around the inclusion of e-cigarettes in the “no smoking” policy. It is not smoking. It is, for lack of a better term, “vaping.” No lighters are used, no flames are ignited, nothing is being burned producing smoke. Therefore, where there is no fire, there is no smoke.

Recently I have been racking my brain trying to figure out a way to combat this obvious miscarriage of justice, this heinous confusion of rules, this blustering mistake by the rule makers. But, in the meantime, I need to continue to be the example, not the exception.

I can understand that e-cigarettes are included because they do look and feel the same as a regular cigarette. The police would need to spend an absurd amount of time deciphering between the two when seen on campus.

But considering smoking bans in public buildings are certainly not new, what smoker in their right mind even thinks about lighting up a traditional cigarette inside a building hoping it could be confused for an e-cigarette?

It would appear that my days of relaxation while puffing on an e-cigarette during school hours have been put out, extinguished, stomped like a tarfilled, smelly cigarette butt on a dirty parking lot. I would be remiss if I didn’t say I was crushed, but rules are rules.

To ease my stress from this day forward, maybe I should walk around campus drinking assorted beverages out of a martini glass with a fake olive and an umbrella dangerously teetering off the rim. It would look the same, feel the same, but, like the e-cigarette give a different result.