Smokers under fire
Sara Liming | reporter
Smoking on campus and the rising issue of secondhand smoke has started to affect Pittsburg State’s faculty, staff, students and the community.
The idea for a tobacco-free campus started in 1995, when a student brought a proposal to the Student Government Association for a smoke- and tobacco-free campus.
On July 1, 2012, PSU adopted the current tobacco policy from the Kansas Clean Air Act. In November 2010, Gorillas in Your Midst held the first “Great Gorilla Smokeout.”
Recently, Steve Scott, university president, created the task force to tackle the issue of changes to the tobacco policy.
Jim Triplett, professor and member of the task force, says that the task force was designed in response to strong support for changing the policy. When enough signatures were collected, the question was placed on the ballot.
“It was necessary to respond to the vote students have,” Triplett said. “It is our job to look at what’s been going on. We had over 1,200 responses to our survey.”
Of the 1,265 responses, 838 were students and 159 were staff members.
Only 115 of the 1,265 responses were reported users of a tobacco product. On the question of strengthening the policy, Ty Patterson, task force member, says there are key issues to address.
“The No. 1 question is how do you enforce these policies?” Patterson said. “I don’t know of any institution across the country that has a designated area or building distance regulation that is effective. They don’t work.”
Arkansas colleges and universities fine violators of the state’s tobacco policy $100, but don’t report violator identities.
In response to PSU’s creation of the task force, the Kansas Health Foundation gave PSU a grant designed to fund every aspect of the task at hand.
“We received $25,000,” Triplett said. “This covers the cost of the current task force with everything: brochures printed, the consultant that comes to campus, the survey and the focus groups.”
The task force has to take multiple steps to create an adequate smoke-free campus.
The task force had to research current policies of PSU and other universities across the nation, including all 800+ smoke-free campuses.
The task force was then faced with the challenge of finding focus groups of different backgrounds that had an opinion on the potential smoke-free campus policy.
“We are the first among the region’s institutions to make our buildings and residence halls smoke free,” said Steve Erwin, associate vice president of campus life and auxiliary services.
The survey, designed to get feedback and opinions from students, ran until April 1. Alicia Mason, university professor, was in charge of the survey.
“Smoking is different than chewing,” Mason said. “Smoking is visible and presents more of a health hazard.”
Mason said that out of those who were for the change in the tobacco policy, the majority were non-traditional students.
On Wednesday, April 10, the results from the survey were released to the general public. The task force asked for recommendations from the attendees on providing information and asked for input.
The expected date for a final report of the task force to Scott will be in early May. The most difficult task to handle is the feasible approach to enforcing the policy and who will enforce it.
For more information on the task force and the tobacco policy, go to facebook.com/groups/psutobacco.