Salt Lake Community College campuses could be completely tobacco free as early as Fall semester, 2013.
Over 800 U.S. colleges and universities have implemented full campus bans on smoke or tobacco, and SLCC Health & Wellness Services is moving to add SLCC to that list.
They have proposed a tobacco free campus policy that would require smokers to go to the nearest public sidewalk to smoke.
“The proposal that we are working on is a tobacco free campus policy,” says Peter Moosman, Health & Wellness health promotion specialist. “It makes SLCC completely tobacco free. So whether it is cigarette smoke or chew tobacco, all different types of tobacco will be included in this policy.”
As one reason for the policy change, Moosman cites the difficulty in enforcing the college’s current tobacco policy, which bans smoking within 25-feet of a doorway or an open window in accordance with the Utah Indoor Clean Air Act.
Health & Wellness aims to move beyond simply banning cigarette smoking
If implemented, their proposal would completely ban any form of tobacco product.
“Tobacco free verses smoke free is just kind of making the statement that we support a healthier lifestyle,” Moosman says. “Tobacco free campus kind of combats the duel using. A lot of people will smoke in an area that allows smoking, and when they can’t smoke they use snus or chew. Going tobacco free encourages people to go tobacco free.”
A 2011 survey showed that 86 percent of SLCC students believed that secondhand smoke is either extremely or very harmful.
Smokers at the college have mixed opinions about the proposed policy
“I want to see a healthier campus and if that means that I can’t smoke on campus I’m ok with that. That means that I will either need to find other places to smoke off campus or maybe that is the impetus I need to quit,” says instructor Matt Merkel.
“I’m kind of torn,” says Keith Chalmers, SLCC student and smoker. “I think something needs to be done but just asking (smokers) to leave is ridiculous.”
Chalmers says that Health and Wellness Department is taking the easy way out of a complex issue. He says that the school should consider other options other than just taking away smokers’ rights.
“This is a health thing, it’s not smokers’ rights thing. It’s not an anti-smoker thing. It’s trying to provide a healthy campus,” says Moosman. “Secondhand smoke is one of the leading triggers for asthma attacks and we have just about as many students with asthma as we do smokers.”
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requires public entities to protect the rights of persons with disabilities
After collecting data and comments regarding the proposed policy, Health & Wellness officials felt that the best option for SLCC is a tobacco free campus policy.
“Give an option to people. Give us an area, like at airports there’s a smoking area. That’s perfectly reasonable,” says Chalmers.
Moosman said that Health & Wellness Services looked into implementing designated smoking areas, and found that the only places that fit the law tended to be high traffic areas or locations that were close to public walkways.
“Our college campuses are so small that there really weren’t any locations to put the smoking stations,” says Moosman.
The cost of starting smoking stations at SLCC was also a factor
The estimated cost for each smoking station or gazebo was upwards of three thousand dollars.
“Another thing about the smoking stations is that it didn’t insure that non-smokers wouldn’t be exposed to secondhand smoke,” says Mooseman.
The proposed tobacco policy is currently in the feedback process, and the next step is to evaluate the feedback and present the proposal to the vice president of the school. If the policy is approved, enforcement would begin during the Fall 2013 semester.