Tobacco Free Campus: an ongoing initiative
Alex Palmieri – News Writer and Palmer Piana – Photo Editor
Southern Connecticut State University is now a year and a half into being a tobacco free campus.
A violation of the policy is a violation of the student code of conduct. Emily Rosenthal, coordinator of the Wellness Center, said the vast majority of students, faculty and staff are abiding by the tobacco free rules of the school. But she said there still continues to be a few students that continue to smoke.
“Students are frustrated,” said Rosenthal. “I hear from non-smoking students that students are smoking on campus. It’s only a few people who continue to violate the policy.”
A couple weeks ago, Rosenthal said there was a “Tobacco Exchange event” that was hosted by the Wellness Center. Students who want to quit smoking, vaping or any type of smoking could have attended the event. Essentially, they would hand in their smoke products and in exchange they would receive a gift card.
“We had like 55 people come by,” said Rosenthal. “A couple students even said ‘this is me quitting’ as they handed in their smoking devices.”
Rosenthal said she likes these events so students can attempt to quit smoking. As hard as she said it is for people, she said the events are to help all that want to quit.
“If they want to hand in their tobacco products and go to health services,” said Rosenthal, “we will help them. Health services is also giving out gift cards.”
Though it has been a year and a half since Southern has been named a tobacco free campus, there are still students who smoke on campus.
Alexa Anderson, a freshman recreation and leisure major, said though the policy has kicked in, she still sees students who smoke on campus. She was not at Southern the time it first became a tobacco free school. But she said for the students who do smoke, they should try their best to follow the rules of the university.
“You can go off campus and smoke,” said Anderson. “I just don’t know what the big deal is.”
Anderson said by Southern giving students a warning for smoking on campus is a start. Then she said a ticket should be the second offense to a student who continues to do so. Anderson added it is their lives and they are entitled to do what they want.
“I’m not affected by it,” said Anderson.
Some students however are not as convinced that the school has made this policy purely as a means to help the students. Elise Ryan, a sophomore English major cited the $235,496 grant Southern received for implementing this policy at the beginning of the fall semester 2015.
“All schools get funding based on what their are willing to subject their students to,” said Ryan.
“They have some people come by and takedown names once and awhile but nothing ever happens from it. They are doing what they have to do to protect their grant money,” she said, who thought that these acts by the university were for show.
Ryan was also upset by the environment it created on campus towards smokers. “Some people are really nasty about it, they walk up to us and tell us what we are doing is gross and we need to stop. They feel like that are white knighting.” said Ryan.
“We try to be as mindful as possible, we are not in your face.” said Ryan asking why they can not simply have a designated isolated location for them to smoke away from others.
Nova Cotton, a sophomore social work major, feels the same way. “It creates a negative stigma.” said Cotton.
She too questioned the motives of the administration. “It is clearly not about being healthy,” citing that some dorms allow drinking.
Poyanharaj-Sai, a sophomore undecided major, said he is a smoker. He occasionally smokes on campus and said for Southern to have been tobacco free for a year and a half is good. He said it is good for the university, but there will still be people who smoke when they want. There is no preventing them from doing what they want at times.
“It seems nice and everything,” he said. “But there is a good majority of students who want to smoke here.”
Rosenthal said people smoke because they have anxiety or they may be stressed. She said there are other alternatives students can look into.
“We’re really proud of the policy,” said Rosenthal. “It’s working, it takes time but we just want people to know that there are resources here. We want to help people not use tobacco products and save some money.”
Photo Credit: Palmer Piana