Oriana Gilmore

(Rock Hill, S.C.) — As more students turn to e-cigarettes instead of traditional cigarettes, Winthrop University officials said they must clarify the school’s smoking policies.

One in five young Americans are e-cigarette users, according to to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, with many high school and college aged students using vape pens because they see it as a “healthier” alternative to cigarettes.

Julie Schrader, assistant director of Residence Life, said there are smoking policies at Winthrop, but they aren’t vaping specific.

“Basically, we will treat vaping just like smoking for our purposes, where you can’t do either one of them in the halls, and if you are going to vape we expect you to go to the smoking areas,” Schrader said.

She said there are designated smoking areas right outside of residence halls and around the campus for students and faculty to use.

One concern, Schrader said, about allowing e-cigarettes indoors, is the exhaled water vapor could create a cloud that might set off the smoke detectors.

However, it is likely difficult for Residence Life officials to monitor whether students are vaping in their dorms, because the vapor can be unscented or smell sweet like a fruit.

Schrader said students are usually confronted about vaping in their dorms after a complaint or when they set off a smoke detector.

“Like any other policy violation (the RAs) explain to (the student) that (smoking or vaping) has to be outside and they document it in a report,” said Schrader. “Then the supervisor of the building would then follow up with the students.”

She said depending on the degree of the incident, the student’s history of violations and the building supervisor, a student’s consequences for vaping indoors can vary.

“It’s a policy violation, so they may decide to issue them a written reprimand, or they may decide to issue them community service or a fine,” Schrader said. “They may call a student in and talk to them about what is going on, so there is any number of things they can do.”

Cheriton Johnson, a freshman computer science major, said she doesn’t vape, but she has seen many students vaping around campus. However, she said she thinks the current smoking policies are okay.

“I think it’s fine the way it is. They already are strict, to be honest,” said Johnson.

Residence Life notifies newly admitted students that the residence halls are smoke and vape free in the housing pamphlet they receive before coming to Winthrop.

Schrader said these policies are in place to mold a “positive community,” but she also wants people to use their vape pens properly and safely.

* Trey Brownlee produced the digital report below.