“I believe that [the Tobacco Free Initiative] has been working,” said third-year Taylor Beckwith. “[What we want with] the policy is to make sure that it is focused on education and not targeting the smoker, or the tobacco user, because the whole idea is to create a healthier and safer environment on campus.”’
Beckwith has worked in Tobacco Control since seventh grade, since taking on tobacco education as a student leader project at her school. She has been involved in tobacco control at both local and state levels, and served on the California Advocacy Network’s Youth Board, and their College Board. She acts as the undergraduate intern on Whittier College’s Tobacco-Free Taskforce. She works to assist with on-campus education, and event planning, as well as working to help the disparate departments on-campus communicate on the Taskforce.
Whittier College’s Tobacco Free Initiative was covered earlier this year by Quaker Campus (QC) Staff Writer Austin Hall, whose story, “Smoking on Whittier College’s campus snuffed out,” can be found on thequakercampus.org. However, with the Great American Smokeout coming later this month, the QC News staff decided to publish an update on how the initiative has progressed since its implementation.
Whittier College officially became a 100 percent tobacco free campus on Sept. 2 of this year, meaning that students and faculty may not use tobacco products — including cigarettes, e-cigarettes, vapes, and juuls to name a few — while on Whittier College campus. Last year, the College had a number of designated smoking areas, which were removed at the start of this semester. The initiative, however, has been in development for two years, starting in Spring 2016.
“[The initiative] was started by Dr. Romberger and R.N. Stella Wohlfarth out of the Health and Wellness Center, and the Counseling Center before I was a student here,” said Beckwith. “It was an idea they started with President Herzberger when she was here.”
The implementation continued with some help from the American Cancer Society and CVS Tobacco Free Generation Campus Initiative grant — a grant awarded to schools specifically to assist with the implementation of 100 percent tobacco free campuses. Whittier College created a Tobacco-Free Taskforce in 2018 to assist in the implementation of the initiative. The Taskforce includes a number of subcommittees, covering policy, public relations and communications, facilities, education and training, and enforcement and compliance.
“The Tobacco Free Taskforce is basically [made up of] the people who’ve been working on this policy and this initiative,” said Beckwith. “We have meetings about once, twice a semester, depending on what work we need to get done.” Now that the policy has been written, and the initiative put in place, Beckwith said that the Taskforce mostly discusses compliance, and looks at how well the program is working on campus.
“I believe that [the policy] has been working,” said Beckwith. “I have students either stepping off campus, or just less users in general . . . but we still have to track [the policy] as it is still in the first two or three months of being implemented.” Director Rebecca Eberle-Romberger agreed. “I think, for the most part, Taskforce members reported that it’s their belief as well that the implementation has gone pretty smoothly,” said Romberger.
According to Beckwith, the policy is not intended to target smokers, but rather to focus on providing education on the dangers of smoking and to create, in Beckwith’s words, “a healthier and safer environment on campus.” Beckwith feels that the policy is an attempt to combat the influence of big tobacco companies, rather than attack smokers. “We’re focusing on education and focusing on informing students of the dangers of tobacco and what the industry’s doing,” said Beckwith. Beckwith pointed out that the Whittier College policy is in line with that of California State Colleges and Universities of California, all of which are now in the process of implementing tobacco free campuses as well. Romberger pointed out that Whittier College’s policy includes a hierarchy of sanctions against smoking. If a student is reported smoking, they will first go over the policy with the student. If they are reported again, they will be required to take a quiz, then write an essay. If they are reported four or more times, they may be required to pay fines. Beckwith worked with Title IX Investigation Director Siobhan Skerritt to ensure that the punishment for violating the tobacco free policy was in compliance with other measures the school has in place for students who violate other campus policies.
The Great American Smokeout is a national event which, according to Romberger, typically takes place on the Thursday before Thanksgiving. However, this year Whittier is hosting its event on Friday, Nov. 16, from 11 – 1 p.m. in front of the CI. According to Beckwith, the event will focus on educating students about e-cigarettes, vapes and juuls, as those are tobacco products currently popular on college campuses.
“[The Great American Smokeout] has been going on for about 40 years,” said Romberger. “It really started as a one-day challenge in some respects to smokers, to try to give it up for one day.” Romberger went on to say that Whittier will provide quit kits for smokers who wish to try to quit, and will have these available during the Great American Smokeout.
“I just want [the student body] to know that there are resources on campus if they’re interested in quitting,” said Beckwith. “If they are not, there are still resources to kind of get them through the day on campus. And I want them to know that it is focused on education, and we’re not trying to target them with the policy.”
Romberger wants the student body to know that there are real benefits to giving up smoking. According to an article from The American Cancer Society, 20 minutes after quitting, a smoker’s heart rate and blood pressure will begin to drop. 12 hours after quitting, the carbon monoxide level in their blood return to normal. A year after quitting, “the excess risk of heart disease is half that of someone who still smokes.” Romberger also encourages anyone who has any feedback on the tobacco free initiative to email firstname.lastname@example.org.