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Beating the tobacco free policy horse

On Feb. 15 2013, the Associated Students of Washington State University Vancouver’s Senate recommended the creation of designated smoking areas to Chancellor Mel Netzhammer based on a student survey concerning attitudes about smoking on campus. Six months later, WSU Vancouver became entirely tobacco-free, despite the student majority calling for designated smoking areas, and without consulting students regarding attitudes concerning all tobacco use rather than simply smoking. Shortly after the new tobacco-free policy was implemented, the Department of Health & Human Services notified Chancellor Netzhammer WSU Vancouver had officially been awarded the “Fresh Air Gold Campus Award” for implementing the tobacco-free policy. The Fresh Air Campus Challenge is a three-step process and includes bronze and silver awards that are given as a campus works its way through smoke- or tobacco-free policy implementation over time.

The subsequent implementation of the tobacco-free campus policy left both smokers and non-smokers questioning the difference between the recommendations and the resulting policy change. Kasha Banks, a non-smoking junior majoring in social sciences, transferred from Clark College to WSU Vancouver this year. Banks stated that Clark College was a tobacco-free campus. When asked what people did when they wanted to smoke, Banks’ responded: “there were designated spots, like on the corners of streets.” Banks expressed surprise at the fact that the WSU Vancouver’s tobacco-free policy had only been implemented in the Fall of 2013. Banks in not against the tobacco-free policy, and states “there should be designated smoking areas if they’re going to have a ban. I think that’s fair.”

Terri McReynolds, a senior majoring in Humanities with a focus of both English and human development, stated although she is a non-smoker, she recognizes “the smoker’s right to choose.” McReynolds said that the problem for most of the non-smokers was the corridor between the VLIB and VMMC en route to VUB. Her response to those problem-smoking areas: “Well then, just move it!” McReynolds goes on to give examples of appropriate places that are rarely used which would make suitable designated smoking areas. Her suggestions included the back patio of VUB and somewhere in the parking lot area on the opposite side of campus.

Another non-smoker, Kerry Layne Jeffrey, education graduate student and editor-in-chief of the Salmon Creek Journal, states, “A better compromise could have been struck between both sides, like developing a smoking section that was far removed from the major buildings and walkways.”

In the Feedback Report for the 2012 WSU Vancouver Campus Smoking Survey, any student could find the data from the smoking survey, along with demographics, charts and summaries of the findings. In the first paragraph under the sub-heading “Summary of Findings for Attitudes and Perceptions Regarding Smoking as Bothersome and Addressing Smoking on Campus,” the very first sentence confirms that “overall, the vast majority of survey respondents are strongly bothered by smoking on campus, are strongly concerned about second hand smoke on campus, and strongly feel that smoking on campus needs to be addressed.”

The first paragraph of the next sub-heading begins with “overall, the vast majority of survey respondents strongly feel there should be designated smoking areas on campus.” In addition, students did not have an opportunity to provide input regarding tobacco use beyond that of simply smoking.

Students with opinions regarding the tobacco policy on campus are urged to connect with the VanCougar.

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