Laker Current staff report
As students return to campus this fall, small groups of smokers will no longer be seen congregating at entrances. Unsightly cigarette butts nestled between rocks and in shrubs also will be gone. And no clouds of smoke will be there for visitors and students to pass through.
Starting Aug. 6, Mid Michigan Community College became a smoke-free campus, banning all smoking and tobacco products everywhere on the grounds of MMCC and in MMCC-owned vehicles. The only place faculty, students and visitors will be able to smoke is in their personal vehicles.
The MMCC Board of Trustees adopted the revised tobacco-free campus policy in December 2012 after a recommendation from the Strategic Council. The previous policy prohibited smoking in all of MMCC’s facilities and vehicles, but had allowed smoking outdoors, except within 50 feet of doorways.
MMCC President Carol Churchill said the college had received numerous complaints from both students and employees who were dissatisfied with the policy.
“The 50-foot restriction has not been effective in establishing smoke-free zones,” Churchill said in an April memo to all MMCC employees announcing the change. Smokers often ignored it, she said, especially in bad weather, when they gathered near doorways to smoke. Consequently people entering the building have to walk through clouds of second-hand smoke, a problem for everyone but especially for faculty and students with breathing problems.
With the implementation of this policy, MMCC joined the ranks of nearly 1,200 college campuses across the nation that are 100% smoke-free, 15 of which are Michigan community colleges, according to MMCC and statistics compiled by The Americans for Nonsmokers Rights.
The college established a Tobacco-Free Campus Task Force in February to make the transition to a smoke- and tobacco-free campus as effective as possible. In addition to exterior signs and the removal of ashtrays, some of the task force’s initiatives include the presence of a cessation educator on campus during Welcome Week, the distribution of policy announcement buttons to students and staff, and the sale of nicotine gum in campus bookstores.
According to the task force’s Implementation Guide, “We are not encouraging or requiring staff or students to quit smoking or using tobacco products. However, we are attempting to eliminate exposure to second-hand smoke or the use of tobacco products on our campus.”
What are the consequences for violating the new policy? The answer in the guide lists no specific consequences, stating merely that “violations will be actively addressed in the same manner as all other policy infractions, and will result in appropriate corrective action.”
According to Churchill, the revision coincides with MMCC’s overall commitment to ensuring “the health and well-being of its students, faculty, and staff” and she is hopeful students and staff will understand and abide by the restrictions. The Implementation Guide notes that The Environmental Protection Agency has classified second-hand smoke as a “Group A” carcinogen.
“We also believe this effort will demonstrate our commitment to improve the health and vitality of our community, and set an example we hope other organizations will follow,” according to the task force guide.
(How do you feel about the new tobacco-free policy? Do you have any suggestions for students or faculty eager to “kick the habit”? You can share your thoughts on this topic by emailing us at firstname.lastname@example.org.)