This past August, Trinity University enacted a tobacco-free policy that banned the use of all tobacco products on campus. The policy is intended to make the campus a safer environment for students, faculty, staff and visitors by limiting the effects of secondhand smoke and encouraging people to quit smoking.
Now, after the policy’s first semester in action, Katherine Hewitt, coordinator of Wellness Services, reflects on its success.
“The policy has absolutely positively impacted the health of our campus community. Primarily, second-hand smoke has decreased significantly, which was one of the goals of implementing the policy. Also, I’ve received feedback from people on campus who have quit smoking or have cut back,” Hewitt wrote in an email interview.
However, enacting the new policy has not come without some difficulties.
“Every university that has gone through this process has had some enforcement issues, which we were expecting. It has a been a little challenging, because each campus has their own strategy, so there is no one-size-fits-all solution. Again, we’re just focusing on education of the importance of the health benefits of the policy,” Hewitt wrote.
Luckily, though, there haven’t been many incidents of repeated violation.
“I’ve actually only had to meet with one student who was referred to me from student conduct, which was primarily educational and we chatted about cessation (quitting) options.” Hewitt wrote. “Thankfully, most people are respecting the policy and TU appreciates it!”
Despite Hewitt’s optimistic outlook, some students still oppose the policy, like senior music theory major John Morgan.
“I’ve always been against it. I still am,” Morgan wrote in an email interview. “I felt like it was a weird move for the campus to make. Before this policy was implemented I remember talking to Sheryl Tynes about it in her class. She said she never liked smoking, and has always been personal about the subject ever since her grandfather died from smoking cigarettes. So, I felt kinda weird hearing that the policy passed. It seems like the students didn’t have much of a say. The only ones that did probably belong in an uppity, tight-knit circle in cahoots with the administration.”
Morgan claims that he is not alone in his displeasure.
“I’m still bummed,” Morgan wrote. “And so are some faculty and students on this campus. We’re almost more agitated. Good job, Trinity. Thanks for ‘saving’ us. But hey, at least they get some kind of money for being a ‘smoke-free’ and ‘vape-free’ campus. I wonder how that money will come back to us.”
He does admit that he’s seen at least one benefit from the policy, however.
“The campus is a little cleaner. I’ll give them that. Though, I still see cigarette butts on campus,” Morgan wrote.
Despite this slight improvement, Morgan still criticizes the policy for being exclusionary.
“Why not have our campus designed to make kids feel secure and welcomed, rather than making money off of their humanly compulsion and addiction? If you look back in history, any time people tried suppressing human nature and desire there’s always some kind of social backlash,” Morgan wrote.
However, for Hewitt and Wellness Services, it’s too soon to make a definitive evaluation.
“We’ll be formally assessing the policy at the end of the spring semester 2018, so we’ll know more then,” Hewitt wrote.
In the meantime, Hewitt has a message for people on campus affected by the policy:
“We’d just like to remind everyone who uses tobacco or ENDS products off-campus, not to loiter or ‘hang out’ in front or on our neighbors lawns. Trinity is in a beautiful, historic neighborhood, and we value our neighbors and the community we live in,” Hewitt wrote.
“Also, although we have removed all of the tobacco ashcans, there are still plenty of regular trash cans that can be used for tobacco waste. In addition, students can make an appointment with one of the university physicians for nicotine replacement therapy (NRT). Staff or faculty can receive NRT though Trinity’s insurance. Of course, Trinity provides mental health counseling and referrals if individuals need additional support,” Hewitt wrote.