A push for tighter restrictions on tobacco at Central Oregon Community College is underway.
It’s being called the Tobacco Task Force. If students are seen smoking within 25 feet of any window or door a report can be filed. Recent fines have sparked discussion whether heavier restrictions will be placed on smokers, or if tobacco should be completely banned.
“This all came about because the school was being fined for violations,” said Terry Link, the task force coordinator, “It’s 500 dollars per violation.”
Central Oregon Community College has received one ticket for students violating smoking laws.
The law that was passed in Oregon last year made it illegal to smoke within 10 feet of any window, door, or ventilation of a building. A violation can result in a $500 a day and up to $2,000 a month by the state Department of Human Services.
“Nobody wants to see the college start losing $2000 a month,” said Link.
COCC also has changed its own regulations: smoking is not allowed within 25 feet of any door, window, or ventilation. Smoking on campus has also been restricted to just parking lots.
“Smoking is, right now, only allowed in parking lots,” said Link who explained also that smoking anywhere else, including sidewalks, is prohibited by the college.
Second hand smoke, also now called environmental tobacco smoke, is one of Link’s concerns about smoking on campus.
“The non-smoker has no immunities, no build up to the toxins,” said Link.
Nearly 22,700 to 69,600 deaths are caused by second hand smoke each year according to the American Heart Association.
In Oregon 6,921 deaths were caused by smoking 2005. The Lung Association of America also estimated 800 deaths in Oregon are caused by secondhand smoke yearly.
“I don’t like walking through smoke on my way to class,” said Kate Richardson, a student at COCC. “I shouldn’t have to face the health risks of second hand smoke caused by a group of people want to give themselves cancer,” she said.
Tobacco Free Community Colleges
Out of the 17 community colleges in Oregon, four have decided to become smoke free campuses. The ban includes all tobacco products like chew.
“Within five years you’ll see all community colleges go smoke free,” said Link.
Oregon Coast Community College, Mt. Hood Community College, Tillamook Bay Community College, and Portland Community College all have tobacco free campuses.
Lane Community College now has only four designated smoking areas, and will possibly become the fifth smoke free community college in Oregon next year.
The American College Health Association issued a statement in 2009 encouraging colleges “to be diligent in their efforts to achieve a 100 percent indoor and outdoor campus wide tobacco free environment.”
LungOregon.org outlines how a college should move toward a smoke-free campus. The website states the college should make a policy, make sure it is adhered to and enforce the policy, which could mean citations for students who are in violation.
The ban has raised question to where students would smoke if they couldn’t on campus.
“I would say that the question of ‘where would smoking students and staff go’ is the number one concern of the administration,” said Link.
The college is concerned that students will go into the woods or into surrounding neighborhoods, which is a fire hazard and a public relations problem explained Link.
“Personally, I think the 25 foot rule is plenty. You’re not going to get people to not smoke. Putting a ban on smoking is a futile effort,” said COCC student Chris Maddox who was asking passing students for an extra cigarette.
Reporting a violator
“We’re encouraging people to report these violations, not to cost the college money but to force the college’s hand,” Link explained, saying that students should report any violations of the law and any violations of COCC’s rules.
Violations can be reported to the state at Oregon.gov, and reports can be made to COCC by contacting Campus Services.
Portland Community College was the first college in Oregon to go smoke free. PCC fines $25 for a smoking violation which is issued by the college. Reports come from faculty and students.
The task force is currently trying to gather together representatives from smoke free colleges, The American Lung Association, the State of Oregon Health Department, Deschutes County Health, and different members of the student body for a meeting to discuss tobacco on campus and the steps needed to make it smoke free. The summit is expected to take place next month.
“We as a task force looked at universities and colleges across the country and there’s been no downside to going tobacco free,” said Link.
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