BSU reinforces stance against e-cigarette use on campus

In the spring of 2011, Bemidji State University placed itself ahead of what has become a broad debate on electronic nicotine delivery systems by banning on-campus use of e-cigarette devices as part of its tobacco-free policy.

20131120-TobaccoFreeSignThat forward-looking move was part of the university’s student-driven effort to join hundreds of colleges and universities across the country by going completely tobacco-free.

Locally, the Bemidji City Council has debated an ordinance that would require vendors selling e-cigarettes and paraphernalia related to e-cigarettes to hold the same business license required of vendors who sell tobacco and tobacco-related products.

The council narrowly passed an amendment during its Nov. 18 meeting adding the sale of electronic cigarettes to its existing ordinance on tobacco. The ordinance requires e-cigarette vendors to have a license and prohibits sales to minors. The ordinance also requires vendors to undergo the same annual no-sales-to-minors compliance checks required of vendors of traditional tobacco products.

During a second public reading of the proposed ordinance on Nov. 4, several representatives from the university were on hand to testify to the city council.

Jay Passa, BSU health education coordinator, said BSU’s reasons for including e-cigarettes in its policy included the fact that the content of the liquid used in e-cigarettes wasn’t regulated by the Food and Drug Administration, and from an enforcement standpoint it is difficult to distinguish e-cigarettes from traditional cigarettes at a distance.

“From about 20 feet away, you can’t tell if it’s an e-cigarette or the real thing,” Passa said. “After looking at the research and the data and the recommendation [from our consultant], we chose to include e-cigarettes in our policy.”

Passa added that the devices have not been approved by the FDA as a smoking cessation device and mentioned some research that indicates e-cigarettes may not be effective at helping people quit smoking.

“Those reasons are why we included the e-cigarette in our policy,” he said to the council.

Lynn Maltais, assistant professor of nursing at BSU, also testified and addressed e-cigarette use from a social and behavioral perspective.

“I’m coming from a nursing standpoint where I look at e-cigarettes as, it’s nicotine,” she said. “If children see their parents vaping, they may consider that an acceptable behavior. It’s still getting a nicotine addiction.”

Bemidji State’s tobacco-free policy
Bemidji State’s policy prevents use, distribution or sale of tobacco, including any smoking device or carrying or any lighted smoking instrument, in university buildings or on university premises, or in university-owned, rented or leased vehicles. The policy also bans free distribution of tobacco products on campus or at university-sponsored events.

“Tobacco products” are defined by the University’s policy to include any lighted cigarette, cigar, pipe, bidi, clove cigarette, electronic cigarette or any other smoking product, plus any form of smokeless or spit tobacco such as dip, chew, snuff or snus.

For more information on Bemidji State’s tobacco-free policy, visit

Jay Passa, BSU health education coordinator; (218) 755-2080