By: Brittany McDaniel, news editor
RSC President Dr. Terry Britton described the newly adopted smoke free campus policy as “evolution.” Britton explained, “As you evolve, smoking becomes less and less socially acceptable.” Britton went on to say as the institution has a responsibility to “not only educate the mind, but hopefully, the body and spirit, too.”
The motion to make RSC a smoke free campus was made and passed unanimously at the Sept. 30 board meeting. The board came to the decision that by Fall 2011, smoking on campus would no longer be tolerated.
The smoking policy is that students may not smoke within 25 feet of building entrances. The current policy in place is difficult to enforce. Eliminating smoking on campus altogether makes this policy easier to maintain.
Britton also pointed to the fact science can now testify to the dangers of smoking and second-hand smoke. Recent studies by researchers indicate second hand smoke is just as dangerous as actually smoking tobacco. This research suggests smoking is not just a personal health issue, but a public one as well.
According to a report in the August issue of American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine even low levels of cigarette smoke put people at risk for lung cancer. WebMD recently published a story about the report, explaining that certain genes are “turned on” in smokers, but that these genes also turn on for individuals exposed to second hand smoke. In the report, Dr. Ronald Crystal said, “no level of smoking, or exposure to second-hand smoke, is safe…the [coal mining] canary is chirping for low-level exposure patients, and screaming for active smokers.”
With a year of preparation time to switch over to a smoke-free zone, there will be assistance provided to smokers. Like the gradual change from socially accepted smoking to a more conservative view, change does not happen overnight. The campus plans to offer free smoking cessation classes, as well as classes with useful information and tips on how to quit smoking.
The decision to quit smoking is one that Britton faced over ten years ago. “I smoked until 1997 and I probably started when I was 17. It’s very difficult to quit, but I did it. There’s nothing easy about it, but I felt much better immediately after quitting,” Britton said.
As for possible backlash from students and faculty concerning the policy, Britton said, “I think people are pretty much psychologically ready for it. We need to do it, but we’ll do everything we can to help the smokers, too.”