The smoke sifts through crowds, a puff escapes. One student exhales while another begins to cough. Keene State College students have expressed their opinions on the KSC tobacco smoking policy on campus, and a few feel that their fellow classmates are not aware of the rules or simply opt out of the given protocol.
The KSC tobacco smoking policy on campus prohibits smoking anywhere within 25 feet of a building. The policy, approved by the President’s Cabinet in August 2012, also includes tobacco-free areas. These areas include entrances and stairways to facilities, lines where students queue to buy tickets for campus events, bus stops and even seating areas outside the dining commons and student center, seeing as food is provided in both buildings.
Other spaces that can also be marked as “tobacco-free zones” are areas reserved for outdoor concerts or shows. In order to make these areas smoke-free for an event itself, advanced notification or notification signs are necessary.
Though these are the KSC campus rules, many students, including junior Kristen Flemen, were not aware of what the policy entailed. Flemen said that though she does not smoke and doesn’t feel affected by the policy disregard, Campus Safety could possibly step in to ensure the rules are followed.
Another KSC junior, Mackenzie Birrell, said the college “should make the policy more well-known, because I feel like a lot of students don’t even know what the policy is.”
Coordinator of Wellness Education at KSC’s Health and Wellness Center, Tiffany Mathews, said “per the policy, people are supposed to speak up.” Mathews said though many students may not speak up about their discomfort with these guidelines being ignored, it is necessary to let fellow colleagues and classmates know what they’re doing wrong.
She explained that she has been trying to get the details out about the smoking code through advertisements and the word-of-mouth method, and has seen success in a program the Health and Wellness Center has been conducting.
More and more students have been making their way to the wellness center in efforts to curb their tobacco addiction. Mathews said that students have the option of setting up meetings with tobacco cessation educator Kate McNally from the Cheshire Coalition for Tobacco Free Communities. McNally meets with KSC students to assist them in the process of quitting using tobacco.
Mathews explained that each student will set up a schedule with an end date goal, then “work backwards from there” in order to quit completely. McNally also provides free nicotine replacement therapy, which includes patches, gum and lozenges to help students ween off the craving for a cigarette or chewing tobacco.
“We have people talking about quitting and going cold turkey, but it’s not an evidence-based strategy,” Mathews said. The service that McNally provides allows students to decrease their intake of nicotine and alter some of their habits, such as holding or chewing something other than tobacco in various forms. While it is a slow process, Mathews said, this way of curbing the use of tobacco has been the most affective. Mathews also said that these services are offered to faculty and staff as well.
When asked how the tobacco-smoking policy on the KSC campus came to be, Mathews said in 2011, Student Government did a survey that showed most KSC students were bothered by the smoke on campus. Though the students didn’t say they wanted a tobacco-free campus altogether, “They felt like they really have the right to breathe clean air,” Mathews said.
After the survey results came in, Mathews and Student Government members began a discussion of a future tobacco-free campus. The Geology Club had even talked about creating a map that portrayed where designated areas for tobacco use are.
“What we realized after doing a scan around campus was that most of our areas should be tobacco-free, to actually be twenty-five feet [away] and to be clear of any events and structures that would impede the air circulation. There were not many places which would actually be permissible places to use tobacco,” she said.
Birrell said she would approve if the campus became tobacco-free one day. “I think it’d be nice, the environment would be better,” she said. Although Birrell would like to see that change, she is doubtful students would follow those rules should they be implemented. “I feel like people do what they want, no matter what the rules are,” Birrell said.
Still, Mathews said she is continuing to work towards a policy update herself. “My hope is for our campus to be tobacco-free, to get with the times and provide a healthy environment for everyone who’s here,” she said.
Mathews pointed out that not only is the Health and Wellness Center trying to help non-smokers feel more comfortable and healthy on campus, but also help smokers become tobacco-free. She said, “The whole reason for us doing this is because we want to provide healthy environment for the Keene State College community and guests who come to visit.”
Brittany Ballantyne can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org