COVER STORY: NO Ifs, Ands or ButtsBy Paul Bradley, Editor, Community College Week
Colleges Forbidding Tobacco in All Its Forms
C O V E R S T O R Y
NO Ifs, Ands or Butts
There are 65,000 palm cards stacked inside the office of Luis Manzo, director of health and wellness services at the City University of New York, ready to be handed out across the system’s 23 institutions, which include six community colleges.
Each card explains CUNY’s new sweeping ban on tobacco, a policy prohibiting the use of tobacco on all grounds and facilities under the system’s jurisdiction, indoor and outdoor. It also bans tobacco industry promotions, sales and marketing on campus properties and tobacco industry sponsorship of athletic events.
To take effect Sept. 4, the policy will makes CUNY – with about 260,000 for-credit students, 270,000 adult, continuing and professional education students and 30,000 staff and faculty – the largest higher education system in the United States to go smoke-free.
“This policy is about respect for other people and respect for the environment,” Manzo said. “We’re not trying to make people quit smoking. If people decide to quit, that’s great. If not, they can smoke, but just not on campus.”
Health and education officials, anti-smoking groups and a generation of students who grew up smoke-free are increasingly united on the issue. At CUNY, a survey showed that three-quarters of students supported a tobacco ban, Manzo said.
Other colleges are also acting aggressively to ban tobacco. On July 1, Maricopa Community Colleges banned tobacco use on all 10 of its Phoenix-area college campuses. On the same day, Baltimore County Community College (Md.) snuffed out tobacco use on its three main campuses. On Aug. 1, Danville Area Community College (Ill.) will ban all forms of tobacco use on campus.
The movement is driven by mounting evidence of the health risks of secondhand smoke, the mounds of litter created by discarded cigarette butts and a desire by colleges to set an example for healthy living. In most cases, new policies are actually expansions of current policies which ban smoking inside college buildings, and allow it outside only in designated areas.
Smoking-related deaths from cancer, heart and lung diseases and other conditions account for more than 440,000 premature deaths each year. The U.S. Surgeon General has determined that exposure to secondhand smoke is dangerous to health and that reducing exposure will save lives and reduce health expenditures. Research further shows that any exposure to secondhand smoke — even outdoors — has serious health consequences.
Studies have found that about a quarter to a third of all college students smoke. Tobacco use among people ages 18 to 25 remains at epidemic proportions, according to the surgeon general’s report for 2012. The report said 90 percent of smokers started by age 18, and 99 percent by age 26.
“Our policy approaches this from an educational standpoint,” said Alice Marie Jacobs, DACC president. “We absolutely believe we should be a model for healthy living.”
“Exposure to second-hand smoke is not safe, and we don’t want to expose our students and staff to unclean air. And you can’t deny the litter that cigarettes create. We are challenged to contain expenditures, and we don’t have the luxury of constantly having people pick up cigarette butts. We have a beautiful campus, and the litter detracts from it.”
One of the first campuses to ban tobacco was Ozarks Technical Community College in Springfield, Mo., which endorsed the move in 1999 and implemented it in 2003. Ty Patterson was dean of students when the ban was put in place. Since 2008, he has been director of the National Center for Tobacco Policy, a research and policy center that works with colleges pursuing tobacco bans.
Patterson said the ban at Ozarks was implemented after college officials realized that their previous policy of banning smoking indoors, and allowing it only in designated areas outdoors, was not working and could not be enforced. Complaints about secondhand smoke were rampant, including from the college’s president.
“Most people find indoor smoking bans don’t work,” Patterson said. “What you get is people huddled around the entrances of buildings.”
Officials on other campuses came to the same realization and have turned to Patterson for help in crafting and implementing tobacco bans. He has conducted more than 600 webinars and seminars and taken part in more than 60 on-campus visits, typically lasting three days and conducting training for administrators, faculty and staff.
Patterson said more colleges are expressing interest in tobacco bans as they see other bans taking hold
“If these policies work, other people will naturally want to join in,” he said. “Institutions don’t want to be the last to innovate. They want to see how they can do it, too.”
Patterson said colleges contemplating tobacco bans should proceed deliberately, and the institutions he has worked with have taken that advice to heart. CUNY, for example, first announced its tobacco ban in January 2011 and has been planning for its implementation ever since. Danville Area Community College trustees decided on a total tobacco ban 18 months ago and the college has been spreading the word among students and staff.
The time between announcing a ban and putting it in place is critical to building acceptance and consensus, Patterson said.
“It’s important that the institution and its constituencies understand why they are making the change in policy,” he said. “I really don’t think the health component is the most important. Everyone knows that smoking is bad for you. This is really about respect for others and for the environment.”
Colleges differ widely on how to enforce the bans. At the Maricopa colleges, a first violation will result only in a warning. Subsequent violations would be considered a violation of the student code of conduct. On the Baltimore County Community College campuses, violators will receive a verbal and written warning until Jan. 1. After that, a violation will result in a $35 citation.
CUNY has opted for a soft rollout, Manzo said. The ban will not be enforced by police, nor has CUNY established penalties for non-compliance. Instead, it’s hoped that the college community will enforce the ban on each campus. Administrators and faculty are being trained in how to approach violators in a respectful manner.
“We have absolutely no interest in being the smoking police,” Manzo said. “That is not what we want to do. We want to change the culture and the way that people talk about this. The idea isn’t to issue tickets. It’s to teach compliance with a policy.”
Still, the college plans to assess the policy and make adjustments if needed.
“There will be some bumps in the road,” Manzo said. “We’ve been planning this for 16 months, and I can count the number of negative emails on one hand. People still have the right to smoke. They just can’t smoke on college property.”
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