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SOU extends smoking rules to e-cigarettes

Following the lead of state agencies and other Oregon colleges, Southern Oregon University is banning the smoking of electronic cigarettes in all campus locations where smoking regular cigarettes is also prohibited.

Smoking is prohibited indoors and within 25 feet of campus buildings, in university vehicles and in other designated areas.

"We added electronic cigarettes and similar devices to the existing student smoking policy because we had issues with students smoking them indoors," said Casey Clithero, community standards coordinator at SOU.

The rule will go into effect within the week.

Clithero said the change to SOU's Code of Student Conduct puts the university in step with the policies of many other public entities that also prohibit indoor use of electronic cigarettes, often called e-cigarettes.

Introduced in the United States around 2009, e-cigarettes have surged in popularity since, particularly among younger crowds.

U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention statistics released in September show that the use of e-cigarettes among middle school and high school students doubled between 2011 and 2012, with 1 in 10 high school students trying an e-cigarette at least once in 2012.

The smoking devices, which use a battery to heat nicotine and create a thick vapor, are unregulated by the Food and Drug Administration. Their side effects are unknown.

Few students could be found smoking anywhere on the SOU campus on a recent afternoon, but those who do smoke said they were supportive of the rule banning e-cigarettes indoors.

"I realize not everyone is OK with smoking, so it's kind of a courtesy thing," said junior John Pogue, 25.

"I have professors that don't like eating food in class because it smells, so it's kind of the same thing."

Pogue, who was smoking a cigarette outside of the Hannon Library, said he had no problem with students smoking cigarettes or e-cigarettes outdoors.

SOU officials have discussed making the campus completely smoke-free, but smoking is still permitted in designated areas at least 25 feet from buildings.

The University of Oregon went completely smoke-free in 2012, and e-cigarettes are included in the campuswide ban. Oregon State University and Eastern Oregon University also have campuswide bans on cigarettes and e-cigarettes.

Oregon has had a statewide ban since 2009 on smoking inside workplaces and within 10 feet of entrances. The ban was expanded in 2012 to include e-cigarettes and to prohibit smoking on all state agency grounds.

The change in the SOU code of conduct was included in the May bulletin from the Oregon Secretary of State's Office.

Teresa Ristow is a freelance writer living in Ashland. Email her at teresa.ristow@gmail.com.