Smoke alarms to ring, permanently

Tobacco policy blowing onto campus

| Audrey Dighans copy editor |

Starting on Jan. 1, 2015, walking across campus will become a little less smoky.
Pitt State’s Tobacco Policy Task Force will begin implementing a new “Tobacco Free” policy starting next spring.
“This is a ‘soft’ implementation,” said Jim Triplett, professor in biology and co-chair of the task force. “That means we will be preparing the campus for the ‘hard’ implementation that will start July 1, 2015. We won’t be banning tobacco products yet, but we will be alerting students that pretty soon those cigarette bins they stand next to and smoke at will be gone.”
The “soft” implementation of the policy will last for six months. During this time, the task force will work to create a period of transition for the campus by using various channels of communication to spread the message about the university’s official policy and when the enforcement (hard implementation) will begin. Compliance of the policy is expected during the transition period but no penalties will be imposed.

Daryle Rowland takes a puff of an electronic cigarette

Daryle Rowland takes a puff of an electronic cigarette

The task force was formed in 2012 by Steve Scott, university president, in response to a student vote in support of having PSU become a tobacco-free campus.
“The task force concluded its report in May of 2013,” Scott said. “In the report (available online at the task force recommended we adopt a tobacco-free policy, which has recently been approved by the President’s Council.”
Scott says the policy’s intent is to provide a healthier campus and environment and not to punish people, which will be clear in the soft implementation phase.
“The task force is working to provide information about the policy, provide resources to help tobacco users quit and recommending the strategies we will use for those who violate the policy after full implementation takes place,” he said.
The tobacco policy states “smoking and the use of tobacco products are prohibited in or on all university owned, operated, or leased property including vehicles.”
The term tobacco is defined in the policy as “all tobacco-derived or containing products, including and not limited to cigarettes, electronic cigarettes, cigars, cigarillos, hookah-smoked products, pipes and oral tobacco. It also includes any products intended to mimic tobacco products or contain tobacco flavoring.” Electronic cigarettes, or “E-cigs” as they are commonly called are outlined in the policy, which means in 2015 they, along with all other tobacco products, will be banned from use on campus.
Brenton Ogle, freshman undeclared, says he is not thrilled about the policy.
“E-cigs are a healthy alternative to smoking,” he said. “They’re cool.”
Ogle added that E-cigs operate on a vegetable-based oil, propane glycol, flavoring and nicotine optional.
“If people want to smoke them or use tobacco they will,” he said. “E-cigs are healthy in the long run and they shouldn’t be banned through this policy.”

Triplett does not share Ogle’s opinion.
“There is no regulation or control on E-cigs,” he said. “They are not FDA approved. Many people say or think they will be great cessation tools, but we have cases that prove they don’t work. Most people have no intention of using an E-cig as a cessation tool; it therefore only increases nicotine addiction.”
Triplett added that even using an E-cig that does not contain nicotine is potentially dangerous because many of the chemicals are unknown, unregulated and unapproved.
“If the FDA approves them as a cessation tool in the future, we would certainly amend the tobacco policy for them to be permitted on campus for that use as long as the user acquires a slip from the student health center to verify it,” Triplett said.
Richard Trezza has mixed feelings about the policy’s view on E-cigs.
“I smoke them because they help me relax,” Trezza, sophomore in automotive technology, said. “I think E-cigs should be banned in buildings but not outside, but I feel the campus going tobacco free is a big step forward. E-cigs aren’t dangerous, though, they’re a safer alternative to tobacco.”
“This whole movement was started by students,” Triplett said. “The task force has done extensive research into the implementation of this policy and it is the right thing for PSU to do.
In the task force’s online survey conducted last year, 67 percent of the 1,267 respondents said they favor a tobacco policy change. About 69 percent said they would prefer fines and penalties for violators of campus tobacco policies and 34.9 percent indicated the policy of smoking 10 feet away from building entrances was “not very well” enforced. Almost 87 percent answered they had been exposed to second-hand smoke while on campus.
There are currently more than 800 smoke-free campuses across the United States. Of these, more than 600 have adopted a tobacco-free policy.
“I recognize some individuals will be unhappy about this new policy,” Scott said. “But I also believe it is the right step and the right time for this campus to become tobacco free. Years from now we’ll be saying thanks to the students of 2012 who kick-started this effort. It’s a milestone for the university.

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