By: Timothy Wright
All Camden County College campuses have followed the Tobacco-Free Institution Policy since July 1, 2009. That means any use of “tobacco-like” substances including cigarettes, cigars, and chewing tobacco is prohibited inside or outside all college property, be they buildings, parking lots, roadways, walkways, or fields. The ban will also include tobacco use inside any vehicle on college grounds. Anyone on any Camden County College real estate is subject to the regulation.
The tobacco-free policy is yet to take full effect. Currently, student violators will receive a yellow warning card that includes information on the school policy as well as resources to quit smoking. Starting January 1, 2010, however, student violators will receive a summons to pay $25 for the first offense and an additional $25 for littering each time a cigarette or other substance is discarded on the ground. Repeat offenders may be charged with $50 fines. The fine may prevent one from graduating or receiving a transcript if left unpaid past the summons’ schedule. The summons will have an appeals process. “Intentionally flagrant” student violators may be referred to the Dean of Students. All uniformed officers are instructed to inform people not to use tobacco-related substances.
The tobacco-free policy does not apply to only students. Steve Hetherington, Assistant Director of Public Safety, has stated that the college’s position will be enforced “across the board”. He mentioned that though the policy would be enforced “gently, friendly”, employees and visitors alike will be subject to the ban on tobacco use.
Hetherington, a smoker, stated that many colleges are becoming tobacco-free. “It’s just the way institutions are going,” he said. He mentioned that smoking has declined since the initiation of the policy and that the “great majority” of the college population has complied. When asked whether banning tobacco in one’s own vehicle can hold up legally, Hetherington simply answered, “Yes.” He also did not expect any drop in enrollment due to the policy.
Students and professors alike have had a variety of opinions about the issue. “I’m for it,” said Bill Zeoli, major of liberal arts. “It affects my asthma.” Professor Nicholas who teaches World Civilization, however, could not disagree more. “It’s totalitarianism,” he stated. “I mean, I can understand it. But there should be accommodations.” Nicholas feels those accommodations might include designated smoking areas and that the ban should not extend to vehicles on college property. “I should be able to smoke in my car if I want to,” he said. Hetherington, however, stated that there would be no accommodations of any sort.
Those who wish to quit smoking may attend a free four-week smoking cessation group beginning in January 2010. The group will be instructed by professional counselors, and information about it can be obtained through the Office of Student Life and Activities. To read Camden County College’s explanation of the Tobacco-Free Institution Policy, visit www.camdencc.edu/tobaccofree.