NIC is no longer an entirely tobacco-free campus.
“There’s a compromise,” said Dean of Students and Director of Health Services Linda Michals. “We’ve created some smoking areas for people to be able to smoke.”
Alex Harris, director of student development, said the large number of students that refused to obey the policy as well as popular demand were the main forces that brought about the change.
Michals said that in terms of getting students to stop smoking, tobacco-free policy was a complete failure.
“In terms of dialogue, no one has come up to me and said ‘I’m not going to honor this,’ but they haven’t had to; their behavior certainly said ‘I’m not going to honor this policy, I’m going to go over here and smoke,’” Michals said.
The reversal has come only two years after the initial tobacco-free campus policy was originally instated.
“There have been many requests, mostly through ASNIC and students, to implement smoking areas, and at the same time through the last two years, we’ve had a lot of complaints about people smoking in the stairwells and nonsmokers having to walk through [smokers sitting there.]” Harris said. “So after a lot of discussion at the end of last spring semester the [tobacco taskforce] committee recommended that they designate smoking areas on the perimeter of campus.”
Harris said the designated areas will have clear signage placed around them sometime this semester, although ashtray receptacles have already been moved from to various locations around the edge of campus.
Harris said benches will be provided to discourage smokers from congregating on the stairwells and to make the smoking areas friendlier to the students that will use them.
“Its not about putting people in a space they don’t want to be necessarily. It has to be out of the weather, somewhere where then can clear snow out of when it piles up,” Harris said.
Guy Jordan, 53, computer information technologies, a on-again,off-again smoker of 15 years said that although he appreciates no longer having to stand in poor weather on Rosenberry Drive during his smoking breaks, he would still like to see the campus install shelters.
“They make accommodations for everyone else,” Jordan said. “With all the money that they charge us, they should at least be able to take some of that money and create smoking areas on all four sides of the campus with shelters because of winter. They take money from me, from my tuition to pay for outdoor programs, sporting programs, things I don’t personally participate in, so why not make it fair?”
Harris said shelters are unlikely to be provided at this time.
“Shelters have been talked about here since tobacco-free policy was first discussed,” Harris said. “I’ve been here 11 years now and at the time when we passed [tobacco-free policy] we looked to take the students lead on [shelters] if that was something they wanted to fund and do, and in all the discussions they shied away from shelters.”
Harris said it remains a student decision.
“I definitely think those things are always on the table. If student’s opinion is that they want that or support it, the committee would definitely consider that,” Harris said.
Michals, however, said she would not support building smoking shelters on campus as part of an ongoing effort to discourage smoking altogether.
“I don’t know that I would personally be in support of having structures. But if the whole decides that, then its not a hill I‘m going to die on,” Michals said. “One of the things I’ve learned from being here so long is that you have to pick your battles. The battle for me is that the main part of the campus remains tobacco free.”
And in that sense, the policy has been successful.
“I still think overall it [tobacco free campus] works great,” Harris said. “The most complaints we got before we were tobacco free were people standing in the entrances or having three people in front of you on the sidewalk smoking and it getting in your face, all that has all but gone away.”
Michal said that although she estimates less than ten students have sought the free help offered by health services to quit smoking, nonsmoking students not being exposed to carcinogens without their consent is what’s important.
According to the CDC, cigarette smoking kills more than 440,000 Americans each year, with an estimated 49,000 of these deaths from exposure to secondhand smoke.
“It’s a great breath of fresh air for me, no pun intended, to be able to walk from building to building and not be enveloped in cigarette smoke,” Michals said.