The Oswego State Clean Air Committee commemorated the 2015 tobacco-free policy on Earth Day with an anti-smoking demonstration in the Marano Campus Center.
“I hope we are reminding everybody on this Earth Day that this is our college policy and we expect everybody to abide by it,” said Barbara St. Michel, the associate director of Campus Life and head of the Clean Air Committee.
Peer Advocates from the Lifestyle Center provided students and faculty with Stash-the-Ash pamphlets, free healthy snacks and OzQuits bracelets to promote the smoke-free policy enacted this year.
According to a 2013 report by OzQuits, a tobacco-free educational program developed by the Clean Air Committee, only 15 percent of the 1,526 students surveyed use tobacco products. Of the 235 students, more than half were either already planning on or willing to quit.
St. Michel explained that the smoke-free initiative has inspired a culture change, and step by step the college community is attempting to kick the habit.
“It takes time,” St. Michel said. “A lot of people expect that we flipped a switch and all of sudden, we are going to be tobacco free. It takes time for people to understand the new policy… cultures just don’t change overnight.”
Before the policy was enacted in January 2015, the college allowed smoking only at a 25-foot perimeter around building entrances, exits, windows, loading docks and air intakes.
Across the U.S., cigarette smokers account for one-third of college students, according to researchers from the Harvard School of Public Health. For smokers, quitting is a difficult process. The success rate for tobacco users is a meager 4 to 7 percent, according to a 2014 report by the American Cancer Society.
This year, the college removed all of the butt pots on campus in part of a strategic plan to promote and advocate for the health and wellbeing of students. However, the plan has since backfired, as regular smokers dispose of the cigarette butts outside or on the grounds of residence halls and public entrances.
Former cigarette smoker James Snover explained that the removal of the cigarette butt containers has only caused widespread litter throughout the campus community.
“It has not been effective,” Snover said. “The biggest problem with the policy is that they took away the cigarette butt receptacles. Anyone who still decides to smoke is kicking the butts on the ground.”
St. Michel said that students should follow the campus-wide policy. She further explained that the removal of the butt-pots is a method, which eliminates the incentive to smoke or use tobacco products.
“If people weren’t smoking, we wouldn’t have the problem,” St. Michel said. “We felt if we were to provide the butt-pots that people would continue to smoke.
Smoke-free buttons and a raffle for a free t-shirt were not the only prizes offered at the afternoon event. St. Michel explained that the table featured empty cigarette boxes and a container filled with at least the hundred cigarette butts found on campus.
“We made a couple of tours around the campus and we are comfortable in some areas, but then others, we have been really disappointed in how many smokers there are,” St. Michel said.
Sophomore and public justice major Brianna Rice said the smoke-free policy is effective.
“If you make it out of sight, out of mind, people are not going to be as willing or have easy access to do it,” Rice said. “It might help in preventing further people from starting [to] smoke and it makes it harder for people to want to smoke.”
According to St. Michel, a smoke-free campus supports the health and well-being of athletes as well.
“It is important for our student-athletes and anyone outdoors to not be exposed to secondhand smoke while they’re doing their job or playing a game,” St. Michel said.
Rice further explained that outdoor hockey drills, give smokers an opportunity to impede on her health.
“When you’re doing sprints and you’re trying to get air in and you have someone smoking beside you it is detrimental to your health,” Rice said. “Its hard to recover when you’re trying to get oxygen, but all you have is someone’s second-hand smoke.”
Since 2014, the Mary Walker Health center has offered smoking cessation programs to hundreds of students campus-wide.