Despite its policy limiting smoking to campus parking lots, Central Oregon Community
College was recently fined $500 by the Department of Human Services for not complying with Oregon’s Indoors Clean Air Act.
The policy, which limits smoking or the use of smokeless tobacco on campus to parking lots, is one which many of COCC’s students and staff seem to disregard.
“On a recent inspection, [DHS] had observed several people smoking within 10 feet of the building entrances,” said Robert McDilda, the Safety and Security Supervisor at COCC.
The ICAA prohibits smoking within 10 feet of entrances, exits, windows and ventilation intakes that serve an enclosed area, according to the Oregon state website.
If they are not in compliance with the ICAA, explained McDilda, DHS can fine a public place up to $2,000 within a 30 day period, a fee that should help encourage the enforcement of COCC’s smoking policy. Actually enforcing it, however, will be a challenge.
While smoking on campus is “one of COCC’s bigger issues, close to parking,” said McDilda, “we aren’t staffed for enforcement against smoking. “
The smoking policy was designed to protect the environment, comfort and public health according to COCC’s General Procedures Manual.
Taken from a 2009 tobacco survey at COCC, over 50 percent of students and staff agreed that daily exposure to even a small amount of second hand smoke poses a serious health risk, while around 25 percent
stated that they have experienced immediate health effects from secondhand smoke, such as coughing, wheezing or allergic reactions.
“I think it’s gross, especially when you’re walking up the hill behind someone who’s smoking,” says Ashley Davis, a student at COCC in favor of a smoke-free campus.
Others, however, disagree with a ban on smoking, citing various disadvantages.
“Smoking outdoors, away from building doors is relatively innocuous and should be allowed. I’d prefer it to a student having a nicotine fit in class—or coming late or not at all because of the need to smoke,” read a comment from the tobacco survey.
In addition to the various health risks and the ICAA policy, smoking on campus also poses a hazard to the college’s environment. Many smokers dispose of their cigarette butts on the ground, cluttering COCC’s campus.
“I think COCC’s a nice, beautiful place,” said Jenna Berentis, a COCC student . “I don’t want it to be ruined by the cigarette butts littered everywhere.”
As far as cleaning up the cigarette butts, this is up to COCC’s grounds maintenance service.
“I’d say it ranks pretty far up there, maintenance wise,” said Gene Zinkgraf, the director of COCC’s Campus Services. “In the past they’ve even started fires, which we’d routinely have to put out.”
According to Zinkgraf, however, COCC’s smoking policy signs posted around campus have helped a lot. Prior to the signs, says Zinkgraf, there was far more litter from cigarettes on campus.
“But you’re always gonna have people who ignore the signs,” says Zinkgraf. “It would be nice if people could adhere to the signs and dispose of their cigarettes in ash urns, trash cans, or keep them with them.”
You may contact Tobey Veenstra at firstname.lastname@example.org