Starting Monday, Jodi Soden, a student at Mesa Community College, will be among those who have to get through the day without having a smoke on campus as all Maricopa County Community College District facilities become smoke- and tobacco-free.
“I’m sorry, it’s crap,” Soden, a student in veterinary tech, said. “I can ruin my own health on my own time if I want to.”
MCCCD doesn’t see it that way. The district announced last fall that the ban would take effect in July 2012.
“As an educational institution, we have an obligation to lead the way in matters of health awareness and education,” Chancellor Rufus Glasper said in a news release announcing the ban. “When this policy goes into effect, our district and its 10 colleges will join hundreds of other colleges and universities across the country in what is a growing trend.”
On Thursday after finishing a math final, Soden smoked under a tree at MCC in an area designated for smokers. On Monday, that area will be off-limits for lighting up.
“It (expletive) pisses me off, and you can quote me on that,” she said, sitting down at a table and pulling out a cigarette.
“I like to smoke,” said Soden, a smoker for 22 years. “I know it’s bad for me. I know my skin is bad because of it.”
Soden, who smokes about a half pack a day, knows she will need to take a smoke break sometime during the six hours she will spend on campus Monday, the start of the second summer session.
“I pay to be here,” she said. “This comes out of my pocket. I’d understand at high schools or elementary schools, but not here.”
Before the ban, the community college district allowed students, faculty, staff and visitors to smoke in designated areas on campus, often away from main thoroughfares and buildings. The ban means those designated areas will be gone and the limited number of ashtrays will disappear. In their place will be “no smoking” signs.
The district will join a group of more than 500 universities and colleges that prohibit smoking on their campuses, according to no-smoke.org, a non-smoking advocacy group.
“We are continuing to focus on educating tobacco-users about the policy and connecting them to available quit resources if they so desire,” said Andrew Tucker, a MCCCD spokesman.
Deborah Kitchen, a student studying forensic science, smokes about two-and-a-half packs a week. She thinks that while the ban might help her cut back on smoking, it probably won’t make her quit.
In an effort to help tobacco users quit, the colleges are offering more than just health suggestions. The district also has myriad online and on-campus options for tobacco cessation including the Breathe Easy Buddy system, which will match people trying to quit with a support system, and direction from the Arizona Smoker’s Helpline, commonly know as the ASHLine, as well as access to the ASHLine’s new free iPhone and Facebook app.
“Campus public safety will provide primary enforcement,” Tucker said. “Continued violations of the policy by an employee or student will be handled through their respective conduct procedures.”
Essentially, that means that frequent student or staff violators will be referred to either the Dean of Student Affairs or the Vice President of Administrative Services. The infraction would be treated like any other violation to the student or employee code of conduct policy.
For visitors, a frequent violator could end up with an escort from the property and a 30-day no-trespass order, according to the district website. However, such arguably extreme measures will not be the immediate response of the security officers.
“Public Safety recognizes its responsibility to enforce this regulation and similar policies with restraint and diplomacy,” the enforcement guidelines state. “In enforcing the Smoke Free/Tobacco Free regulation, employees of Public Safety will consider first and foremost the educational component of compliance.”
For the record, the ban is only in effect on district-owned property; it does not extend to the perimeter sidewalks. People walking in those areas will not be in violation of the ban.
Soden said she would probably walk to the perimeter sidewalks or go to her car. Kitchen believes she won’t smoke while she’s on campus.
“I’ll just have to deal with the rules,” Kitchen said.