University Analyzing No-Smoking Policy
By Jeannine Manning Hutson
When Karen Warren was a student at East Carolina University back in the mid- to late-70s, she remembers classmates lighting up cigarettes during professors’ lectures.
Today, as director of Campus Wellness at ECU, Warren is on a taskforce to implement smoke free zones within 25 feet of campus buildings. The “no smoking zone” could eventually expand to 100 feet, she said, since the N.C. General Assembly passed legislation supporting this policy last summer.
The 25-feet no smoking policy went into effect Aug. 1, after approval by the university’s Executive Council, Warren said.
During its 2007 session, the N.C. General Assembly passed Senate Bill 862 that allows the regulation of smoking on the campuses of the UNC Health Care System, the facilities of the Brody School of Medicine at ECU, and the buildings and grounds of the constituent institutions of the University of North Carolina system.
Warren explained that ECU is implementing its smoking regulations in phases.
“Right now, we’re at 25 feet away from buildings. This came from an initiative from Chancellor Steve Ballard (prompted by a Faculty Senate resolution) to look at creating smoke-free areas on campus and to protect people on campus from second-hand smoke,” she said.
“We’re also working toward implementing a tobacco-free campus using Health and Wellness Trust Fund grant money,” she said.
That grant funds promotion of smoke-free areas on campus and helps educate students about tobacco use as connecting people with smoking cessation programs, Warren said.
Bill Koch, associate vice chancellor for environmental health, safety, parking and transportation at ECU, said that signs have been placed throughout campus, the chancellor sent out notices, and articles written in “The East Carolinian” and “The Daily Reflector” to alert people of the changes.
Koch said his office is working on a written policy regarding smoking/no smoking on campus. “People call and ask for the policy. We have a policy; that came from the Executive Council. We’re working on a formal written policy. The 25-feet area away from buildings has been approved and implemented,” he said.
He added that the Health Sciences Campus has its own taskforce looking at complying with the 25-foot rule through designated smoking areas. The group is presenting its findings and proposal to the administration on the health science campus in the near future. That campus will most likely have designated smoking areas.
Koch said the goal is to have a policy that considers everyone on campus – smokers and non-smokers.
“Let’s find something that’s reasonable. What we found in the research is that if people are smoking are more than 20 feet from the building then the smoke is typically not blown back into the building or taken into the heating/air conditioning units,” he said.
Warren said that society’s views on smoking have changed dramatically since she was a student at ECU. “I remember when you could smoke in the movie theater downtown. We have seen a shift in the culture due to the research about the health effects of smoking.
“When we are polling students, they are very much in favor of creating smoke-free areas on campus. We are leading the way to protect the health of our students,” she said.
Other UNC-system schools are also working to implement no-smoking areas on their campuses through Tobacco Free Colleges. With the start of 2008, UNC-Chapel Hill expanded its no-smoking policy to include up to 100-feet from university facilities.
“Right now there is no enforced penalty for smoking right outside the door to a building; however, it goes against the smoke-free policy,” Warren said.
“We’re hoping that the culture will shift and students, faculty and staff will know that they can’t smoke at entrances to the buildings because of the signage and they will know there are designated smoke free areas on campus.”
Warren also pointed out that campus health professionals are available to support people who choose to quit smoking. If someone is interested in smoking cessation classes, Warren suggested contacting ECU Physicians regarding its program (call 744-1600 or visit http://www.ecu.edu/pulmonary). Faculty and staff covered by the state health plan can have access to a health coach, or contact the N.C. Quit Now program (http://www.quitnownc.org).