The twelve smoking-designated areas on the Whittier College campus will be gone come Fall 2018, according to the Tobacco-Free Task Force. The decision to become a smoke-free campus is done in the hope of reducing bodily harm from secondhand smoke, as well as negative impacts on the environment — boosting air pollution.
According to the Center for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC), tobacco use accounts for one in five deaths in the United States, or about 485,000 per year. Secondhand smoke exposure leads to 41,000 deaths among adults and 400 in infants yearly. Still, with these statistics, a stunning 35.6 million Americans (as of 2015) still smoke cigarettes.
The movement to become a tobacco-free campus was initially introduced by President Herzberger, after 2,000 colleges and universities nationwide officially became tobacco-free as of Nov. 1, 2017. In a statement earlier this year, President Herzberger said, “The creation of tobacco-free zones in workplaces and colleges have dramatically decreased the use of tobacco.”
The decision to go tobacco-free was made at the end of last year by a task force made up of Dean of Students 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. “Discouraging the adoption of this habit will help many, many people lead healthier lives,” said Herzberger.
There is a sense of urgency to stamp out smoking at a young age. According to the Surgeon General’s report in 2014, 90 percent of smokers begin by age 18 and 99 percent of smokers begin by age 26.
Second-year Tobacco-Free Initiative intern Taylor Beckwith, who has been involved in tobacco-free initiatives for a total of eight years, said, “[The] Tobacco-Free Initiative allows the opportunity for us to to combine new research surrounding the dangers of tobacco with social justice, economic, environmental, and health issues in a way to mobilize campuses and communities toward healthier and safer environments where individuals can live, work, learn, and play.”
The initiative has been funded by a grant from the American Cancer Society, funded by CVS Health Foundation. Along with the Tobacco-Free Initiative, Whittier College encourages participation in the Great American Smokeout, honoring November as a month for tobacco users to take the first step to quit using.
However, with such a heavy push toward becoming a tobacco-free campus, there must come some sort of pushback. “There have been some concerns raised about how the policy change will affect smokers, but we are working as a taskforce to address all concerns and provide a healthier environment for all members of our community,” said Beckwith. “The policy is not attacking smokers or tobacco users, but providing a cleaner college campus environment.”
“I think that this will positively impact student life by providing a safer and healthier environment for all students, staff, and visitors,” said Beckwith. The decision to go tobacco free on campus has been heavily discussed in the College community. The story was even picked up by the Whittier Daily News.
Want to take the first step in quitting your tobacco use? Whittier College provides assistance for those struggling with tobacco use, and according to Beckwith, “Cessation supplies are also now available in the Health Center for free, and for all students who may be interested in reducing their nicotine use.” Cessation supplies includes nicotine gum and patches to help students reduce their tobacco intake. The College is also conducting a survey through Georgia State University to gauge the tobacco use and attitudes towards smoking on campus. This data will be used by the College to determine the most effective ways to move forward for a 100 percent smoke free environment.
The Quaker Campus will continue to report on this story as it develops.