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Smoke Clears Over the Maricopa Community Colleges This Semester

Published: Thursday, August 9, 2012

Updated: Tuesday, August 14, 2012 18:08

Smoking

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A Phoenix College freshman lights up in this 2010 file photo

Students returning to classes at all 10 Maricopa Country Community College District campuses later this month will notice a big change: all campuses are now smoke and tobacco free.

As of July 1, students, faculty and visitors cannot light up anywhere on any of the district properties, including parking lots and cars on school grounds.

The Maricopa Community Colleges began looking into a Breathe Easy policy shortly after Arizona became a smoke-free state in 2007. After years of research, the policy is finally in place and full-swing.

Michele Hamm, the coordinator of employee wellbeing for the district, said the institutions are thinking of the community’s health as a whole.

“We can’t argue with the fact that tobacco smoke is dangerous,” Hamm said. “Smoking is a behavior and we’re not saying you can’t smoke, we’re just saying we don’t want you smoking on our college campuses. We’re not taking away a right, we’re just giving an alternative.”

Smoking is not an easy habit to quit and Hamm said it usually takes seven attempts before someone is successful. By making smoking harder and providing resources for quitting, the district hopes to make an easy quitting environment.

Employees who smoke are being offered cessation courses and the campuses now sell nicotine gum and other resources for students wishing to quit.

Since all tobacco products are banned, all ashtrays on campus were removed and there are no designated smoking areas.

“The literature and history shows that when there is a 100 percent tobacco-free policy forced or put into place it helps 20 to 25 percent of people help quit,” Andrew Tucker, an MCCCD spokesman, said.

Electric cigarettes are also not allowed on campus because they are not FDA approved.

“We’re keeping a close watch on it because we don’t want to prohibit people from using a quit aid that’s safe and effective, but that isn’t so yet, according to the FDA,” Tucker said.

The district’s 10 campuses are now a part of the 774 smoke-free campuses in the United States with no exemptions. According to the American Nonsmokers' Rights Foundation, the only other school in Arizona with such a policy is A.T. Still University in Mesa.

The goal is not to infuriate or restrict rights but to encourage healthier living and spare those who share the air around smokers. Thus, there will be consequences for those who ignore the policy.

“It’s really on sort of a case-by-case basis but generally speaking it’s treated like any other student or employee violation of a student or employee conduct policy,” said Tucker. “There are warnings and then if they don’t comply, if they’re flaunting it and refuse to comply, we reserve the right to ask them to leave our campus and not come back until they aren’t doing that anymore.”

ScottsdaleCommunity Collegeart therapy senior Sade Evans supports the campuswide smoke-free initiatives but is skeptical of it working. She attended summer school and saw people smoking on campus after July 1.

She even said that on the SCC campus, it felt as if the nonsmokers were in the minority. Sadly, Evans hasn’t had the best of luck as a nonsmoker on campus.

“It’s really inconvenient when people smoke and if you’re sitting in the hallways,” she said. “I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve had cigarette buds flicked on me or have gotten ash in my eye.”

Evans said she has friends who smoke and doesn’t see them changing their ways anytime soon. She said verbal warnings might not be enough and that ticket fines might be needed to really get students to obey the rules.

“I think it’s not right to smoke on campus, because I don’t think I should get lung cancer if you want it, but at the same time we live in a free country and they shouldn’t push those values on other people if they don’t want it,” Evans said. “But I, frankly, like breathing clean air.”

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