College may go smoke-free - The online voice of cambridge campus students
The online voice of cambridge campus students
by Michael Relitz

contributing writer

There is a battle brewing at Anoka-Ramsey Community College (ARCC). In the midst of a country that is leaning towards "green" energy and healthier lifestyles to improve quality of life, many cities and states throughout the country have adopted no-smoking policies in public places including bars, restaurants, and even some college campuses.

After bars and restaurants shifted to become non-smoking, many people felt their rights were being infringed upon. Yet others felt that due to the harmful nature of second-hand smoke, the ban was a long time coming.

Anoka-Ramsey Community College has been exploring the option of turning both the Cambridge and Coon Rapids campuses into non-smoking facilities.

ARCC would not be the first Minnesota College to make the move to a tobacco-free campus. Other schools within the state that have already made the transition are: University of Minnesota Moorhead, University of Minnesota Duluth, Itasca Community College, Winona State University, University of Minnesota Crookston and University of Minnesota Twin Cities.

Sheila Paul, nursing instructor at ARCC, is heading up a smoking committee in order to explore the matter further. Paul stated that the initiative to begin exploring the non-smoking option began when Anoka County Department of Health received a Safety and Health Investment Projects (SHIP) grant from the state, which is a grant that explores community health issues. "One of the things they found was that lung cancer is the leading cause of death in Anoka County and the college age student is most at risk for smoking and increasing smoking," stated Paul.

Paul also maintained, "One of their initiatives was to look at the two colleges, Anoka Technical College and Anoka-Ramsey that are in the county and look at to see if they would be interested and if they were ready to think about going tobacco free."

Currently the Anoka-Ramsey campuses have four smoking areas between the two campuses (three at Coon Rapids and one at Cambridge). Up until the fall semester of 2009, the Cambridge campus had their smoking area located on the lower level outside of the faculty lounge area. The area was moved due to faculty complaints of smoke making its way into the staff offices through the ventilation system, according to Paul. The school then decided to move the smoking area outside G202 (the auditorium) on the patio area located there.

While ARCC is exploring the option of a tobacco-free campus, the student government has been looking at ways to make the situation better for both smoking and non-smoking students.

Kirsten Kennedy, Student Government President, stated that they are looking at ways to provide two smoking areas for students while keeping them away from school entrances that other students use. A couple of options that Kennedy mentioned was moving the current location away from the theatre and forming a new area outside of the library set back away from entrances and also a possible second location near the new construction by the docks.

Kennedy stated that she doesn’t believe making ARCC tobacco-free is the solution for better health for students. Kennedy had taken it upon herself to do some research into the Minnesota campuses that have already made the move to tobacco-free schools. She stated, "The research proves that the successful campuses are the ones that treat smoking with the cessation classes and education, and actually try and help people quit smoking, which then brings down the smoking on the campus."

In an effort to find out what ARCC students are thinking in regards to a tobacco-free policy, Paul set up a survey on the ARCC website and sent out e-mails to all current students, both full and part-time.

Paul stated that 9,000 people were polled through the survey and that they received a 17% return rate, roughly 1,600 respondents.

While the data has not been fully explored as of yet Paul maintained that, "The preliminary data looks like all the constituents seem to be concerned about the enforcement policy, which we have limited resources to do any kind of enforcement, and that everyone seems to think that the policy needs to be looked at and changed, just not sure of where it should be changed at this point."

Paul also stated, "Students are saying that it would not impact if they went to college here or not, the smoking issue, there were a few that said they would but, there is a concern about the location of the smoking area and having it so close to the doors and students having to walk through the cloud of smoke. But those same students are saying that we shouldn’t necessarily limit people’s rights to smoke or their ability to smoke."

She also added, "One of the other things we are looking at is the readiness for the college to make this move, and just looking at the first run of the data I’m not sure the college is ready to make that move, but I’m not sure if the college will ever be ready to make that move."

The Dean of Nursing also pointed out the pressure placed on colleges to enact some sort of guidelines for the health of all students. "MNSCU is really pushing individual institutions to look at this and include it in part of their policy," said Paul.

From a student perspective there is likely to be varying opinions from smokers and non-smokers alike. ARCC student Brianna Halek (non-smoker) stated that she’s not sure a ban in necessary. "I don’t smoke but I’m not bothered by it on campus. I know where the smoking areas are and I just avoid those doors," said Halek.

While non-smoking students like Halek may not be bothered with smoking, another ARCC student, Neil Bodeman stated, "I’m sure the majority of the student body would like to see a smoke-free campus and I wouldn’t protest it, but as a student here I would like to be able to have a cigarette after going to classes or doing homework."

This controversy may eventually extinguish smoking on campus, but most certainly will light up controversy for those who disagree with an all-out ban.

Current Smoke-Free  colleges in Minnesota

• University of Minnesota Moorhead

• University of Minnesota Duluth

• University of Minnesota Crookston

• University of Minnesota Twin Cities

• Itasca Community College

• Winona State University

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