At the start of the school year, Dean of Students Joel Pérez sent out the guidelines for Designated Smoking Areas on campus. The guidelines show where all “faculty, staff, students, visitors, vendors, contractors, and any other person coming onto campus” are allowed to smoke. The email concluded with a friendly reminder from Pérez to the College community that “quitting smoking will improve your health and reduce your risk of developing heart disease, cancer, lung disease, and other smoking-related illnesses.”
On Sept. 25, President Sharon Herzberger announced that starting in Fall 2018, Whittier will be implementing a Tobacco-Free Initiative on campus. This means that starting Fall 2018, Whittier College will be one hundred percent tobacco-free. Some students were upset that this change in school policy was announced so close to the email regarding Designated Smoking Areas, but this initiative has been in the works since last semester.
Dean Pérez and President Herzberger, in conjunction with Director of the Health and Wellness Center Stella Wohlfarth, Director of Human Relations Cynthia Joseph, Director of the Counseling Center Rebecca Romberger, and those who represented the campus Wellness Coalition, established a campus taskforce that researched the topic. The taskforce came to the conclusion that the best thing for the campus community in the long-term would be to make it one hundred percent tobacco-free by Fall 2018.
When asked what inspired this change in policy, Herzberger said, “The creation of tobacco-free zones in workplaces and colleges have dramatically decreased the use of tobacco.” In addition, many students begin smoking or using other tobacco products when they start college, and President Herzberger believes that “discouraging the adoption of this habit will help many, many people lead healthier lives.”
The news release posted on the college website also shows that this effort is made possible through grants from “The American Cancer Society, CVS Health Foundation, and Truth Initiative… [and] is part of the American Cancer Society’s Tobacco-Free Generation Campus Initiative (TFGCI), funded by the CVS Health Foundation.” According to Romberger, who is leading this effort, the $15,000 grant will go towards many things, some of which include “staffing for one undergraduate and one graduate intern to organize task-force and committee assignments; oversee social media to promote prevention; education; policy change and cessation resourcing; coordinate campus events; and oversee a campus-wide art competition.”
Additionally, the grant will cover smoking cessation supplies, Quit kits, Master Tobacco Treatment Specialist classes, and other resources as well.
The ban on tobacco is one that many colleges have begun to implement. Notably, the TobaccoFreeCampus website states that as of Jan. 2017, there are “1,757 100% smoke-free campuses, of which 1,468 [are] fully tobacco-free.” Cal State University recently implemented a smoking ban, that covers all 23 of their campuses, while UC schools have had this ban in place since 2014.
Romberger believes that this initiative is an important one for the school to undertake, as the school is “now in a position to address the various ways in which tobacco use impacts the lives of students, staff and faculty in [the] community.” Additionally, President Herzberger says that the school anticipates “Lower insurance rates once this program is adopted officially, which will help keep down cost increases for the college and employees.”
For members of the college community who still smoke, starting Fall 2018 they will have to travel off campus. The plan for the tobacco-ban, according to Romberger, is that no students, staff or faculty would be permitted “to smoke or utilize tobacco products including cigarettes, cigars, e-cigarettes and chewing tobacco anywhere on WC property.” Despite President Herzberger’s retirement at the end of the school year, she plans to discuss the change in policy with the new President when they are named, and she suspects that they “will not change course.” Herzberger believes that this policy will have a good impact on the campus community, as other schools who have implemented the ban have seen great results.
The taskforce continues to desire input from the campus community and encourages comments to be sent via email to: firstname.lastname@example.org. Also, the taskforce is encouraging students with interest to submit an entry to the Tobacco-Free Art Competition. The deadline for entry is Oct. 11. More information on the art competition can be found at the aforementioned email address.