Earlier this month, individuals could find white lines and the words ‘NO SMOKING’ displayed in front of buildings to remind students what 25 feet really looks like.
This purpose of this was to represent Keene State College’s policy about smoking and tobacco use, which states it’s “prohibited within 25 feet of [a] building entrance, outside stairways [and passageways] to buildings…and near air intake units.”
In addition, there were tables hosted by Healthy KSC and The Center for Health and Wellness, including health science interns who informed bystanders of research and support groups available in regard to tobacco products. While KSC is not a tobacco-free campus, there are some who hope for this in the near future.
KSC senior Emily Robinson said we should become a tobacco-free campus, especially since she believes there’s “such a small minority of people smoking.” She works with the college’s ground crew. “I‘m one of the people that picks up cigarette butts all the friggin’ time,” she said. “ I just think it’s ridiculous when people are walking in buildings and walking away from buildings smoking because for non-smokers, it’s just…inconsiderate.”
Robinson said that cigarettes aren’t just harmful to others, but also detrimental to our environment. “I mean any time you see dead grass on campus, it’s usually because…either people are walking on it or cigarettes are there,” she explained.
Robinson said she found the visual ideal for people to get an idea of what 25 feet means. “A visual could definitely be a help to encourage people to be farther away,” she said.
KSC first-year and recent cigarette quitter Sebastien Mehegan said he now uses a vapor to help with the cigarette cravings as a gradual fade from nicotine. “When I used to smoke cigarettes, I used to walk up and down Appian Way,” he said.
He said of the visual reminder, “I understand what they’re trying to do; it’s a pretty cool thing.” Mehegan said he can sympathize with people who don’t like the smell of cigarettes but feel like they can’t escape it. “Since I quit cigarettes, smelling a cigarette makes me nauseous,” he said.
However, Mehegan said the campus shouldn’t become tobacco-free because “it would take away people’s rights.” He said even if there was a smoking pit assigned, he would probably would have rebelled against it if it was there when he had been a smoker. He explained, “In the winter you do not want to walk around, you want to take a five minute cigarette [break], then run back inside.”
Mehegan said that someone telling a smoker it will kill them “is the worst thing you can do.” He explained “You walk away just feeling judged and not liking that person.”
“[Smoking is] like an eating disorder, you don’t realize it’s a problem until you realize it’s a problem,” he said, “The more people who tell you you have a problem, the less you’re going to listen.”
Associate Director of Human Resources Karen Crawford said the intent of the visual was to help educate and support the college community. “This was the first time we did it,” she explained, “We [got] a lot of questions from students, faculty and staff about how far 25 feet was and how people weren’t abiding by the rules. They weren’t sure if they were too close.”
Crawford also said that the visual reminders were an easy way for someone to tell smokers they’re too close to the buildings.
Special Assistant to the President of Human Resources Carol Corcoran said that sometimes it can be difficult for non-smokers to ask smokers to move farther away or stop. “I do think it’s awkward because you don’t usually get a positive response,” she said, “You’re afraid someone might say something in response that might be harsh.”
However, both Corcoran and Crawford said this reminder wasn’t just about reprimanding smokers. It was also to offer support for students, faculty or staff looking to quit. “If they’re willing to make the commitment, we’re there to support them,” Crawford said.
Corcoran, who is now 29 years smoke free, said they’ll do whatever it takes to help someone quit. “We will do anything we can do, [it] doesn’t make any difference what it costs,” she continued. Corcoran said, in fact, it’s more costly to both the individual and the country if a person continues to smoke. “Statistics show they’re out more from work,” she explained as well as noting that the health care involved can cost taxpayers a lot more than they know.
Crawford explained that there are a multitude of reasons why they want to help people quit smoking, and they make the help accessible and affordable.
Coordinator of Wellness Education Tiffany Mathews said she helps the students looking to quit, and that the program as a whole is not limited to students. Faculty and staff can get help as well, all of which is free. Mathews explained that she schedules a meeting between the student and a “tobacco cessation coach” from the Cheshire Medical Center. “That person can either meet the student at the hospital, somewhere throughout Keene or even on campus,” she said.
Mathews explained that it’s a process of slowly weaning the person off cigarettes so they eventually no longer use them. She said it’s based on “a whole plan that they work out with the student.” Mathews continued to say that the college has been talking about making it a tobacco-free campus “for about three or four years now.”
She said there’s a lot of work that goes into making the college tobacco-free, and while the college has received multiple grants to become so, it’s been a process. Mathews said, “We don’t want to just force it to be tobacco-free, we want to explain why we want do this and how we’re going to do it [and] get feedback from people.”
Dorothy England can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org