Keene State College looks forward to lifting the clouds of smoke that hover around campus buildings by modifying the tobacco policy so clean air can disperse the haze.
Currently the KSC tobacco policy, which covers all tobacco products, is restricted to outside any building and not within 20-feet of any access to the buildings.
Christine Burke, director of health and wellness, said with the construction of new buildings all around campus, the policy needs change in order to obtain environmental certification.
“What I know is currently under discussion is the two factors. One is with the construction of the new Technology Center and looking to acquire LEED environmental certification on that building which requires a 25-foot perimeter away from the building for use of tobacco products. That has kind of brought back up for discussion what is our policy and is it what we need it to be,” Burke said.
Burke said discussions started last year with both the President Commission for Promotion of Wellness and Student Assembly to assess the consideration of becoming a tobacco-free institution.
“What we’re not going to do is just say we’re going tobacco-free because then there’s no buy-in and there’s no support and many institutions have done that and run into a whole bunch of issues,” Burke said.
Instead, Burke relies on strategy and communication to spread the word and make talk a reality. “What we’re going to try to do is be very strategic and we recognize that this is going to take some time and we’re not looking to be tobacco-free by next fall, but eventually that’s our goal.”
The original tobacco policy implemented by KSC states that in addition to causing direct health hazards, smoking contributes to institutional costs in other ways. This includes fire damage, cleaning and maintenance costs, and costs associated with employee absenteeism, health care, and medical insurance. In order to protect the health, safety, and comfort of KSC students, faculty and other academic appointees, staff, and visitors, it is the policy of KSC to restrict smoking and other tobacco use in facilities and on grounds owned and occupied or leased by KSC.
The policy also states that where the needs of smokers and non-smokers conflict, smoke-free air shall have priority. Student Body President Colin Daly said these changes aren’t to discriminate or prohibit smokers on campus, but merely to make the campus a healthy environment for all.
“I think students who smoke will defiantly have negative emotions towards this, thinking that we as Student Government are trying to hinder their ability to have the right to smoke, which by all means they have the right to smoke and we have no say against what they can and cannot do,” Daly said.
With a majority of students being non-smokers, Daly expressed his goals for the campus to install pavilions around campus for students who choose to smoke within campus grounds.
“Other universities and areas have them and what it does is students who choose to smoke can go there and it’s almost like a vent; it kind of cleans it out a little bit and students in the area who choose not to smoke don’t have to smell it,” Daly said.
Currently, KSC does have designated areas in which smoking is allowed, including entrances and outside stairways to buildings and outdoor passageways to entrances and stairways. Courtyards or other areas where air circulation may be impeded by architectural, landscaping, or other barriers are also open to tobacco usage.
The college also allows tobacco use in outdoor entry or service lines, such as for ticket purchases, event admissions, bus stops, ATMs, along with outdoor seating areas provided by food services.
The tobacco policy relies on the consideration and cooperation of tobacco users and non-users. All members of the KSC community are expected to observe this policy and are encouraged to ask any individuals who are using tobacco in an unauthorized area to stop.
“A lot of time there is ambiguity with it; it’s hard for Campus Safety to enforce and students just don’t know what the policy is, especially when it rains or something. Students get very close to a building under the overhangs so what happens is that smoke just basically goes back into a building,” Daly said. “By having designated smoking areas we would be cutting down on that and it wouldn’t be infringing on students who choose not to smoke.”
Daly said it’s important for students to read up on the policies within the KSC institution so that people are aware of specific regulations around campus and changes to policies.
“When student government went out and decided to start asking students what we did was we were in the student center and anytime students would come up we’d ask them, ‘What do you think of the current smoking policy on campus?’ and a lot of people didn’t even know what the current smoking policy was, which it’s 25 feet away from a building,” Daly said.
Burke revealed that there still needs to be an assessment period where a student survey will be conducted in order to present to the stake holders. After the survey, Burke said the campus would need to make changes in both footage areas around buildings as well as sign postings in certain locations.
As anticipated, students have a lot to say about these changes in tobacco usage and both sides have equal say in the matter.
“Students have their rights; the campus can’t stop people from smoking because that’s not the reality of things. I just think students who do smoke are going to take this as a discriminatory change which may or may not end with controversy,” KSC sophomore Sam Harty said.
Another student, who asked to remain anonymous, said designating smoking areas may not solve the problem. “I smoke and I know for a fact that I wouldn’t walk halfway across campus just to light up a cigarette and I don’t think other people would either.”
Non-smokers see the changes as a positive when it comes to reducing the cause of second-hand smoke. “I’m always dodging clouds of smoke just to get from one class to another and just inhaling what people spew out is enough to want a change,” KSC senior Chelsea Brooks said.
KSC Health Services and Office of Wellness Promotion will offer other prevention and education initiatives that support non-use and address the risks of tobacco and tobacco smoke.
“I want to be supportive of smokers and sensitive to them but I also want the ultimate goal to create an environment where the culture is that we’re all about promoting each other’s health and therefore tobacco wouldn’t make sense to be a part of that,” Burke said.
Jon Carey can be contacted at email@example.com.