Diplomatic Congress’ open forum prompts discussion of tobacco-free campus

tobacco

By Indira Rahman II Contributing Writer

Last Tuesday, Dec. 2, the Diplomatic Congress (DipCon), organized the F&M Forum on Tobacco. The event, which took place in Booth Ferris in the Steinman College Center, was a community health initiative that introduced the possibility of a smoke-free campus. The open nature of the forum attempted to provide an inclusive platform for student voices on campus, and it attracted more than 40 participants— smokers and non-smokers alike.

The forum opened with a presentation by Grace Jeong ’15, chair of DipCon’s Student Health and Safety Committee, who spearheaded the effort along with committee members. The presentation went into detail about what a tobacco-free F&M
campus could look like, using information primarily gathered through research looking at different colleges and universities that had either gone smoke-free or tobacco-free. The floor was then opened to a general discussion and Q&A session between students and panelists.

According to a recent F&M campus-wide survey on the matter, 3.5% of 1053 respondents identified themselves as daily smokers.

Staff and faculty on the panel helped facilitate discussion by providing perspectives as they pertained to their respective field of expertise.

The five-person panel recruited by DipCon consisted of Jan Masland, director of Health and Wellness Education; Dr. Amy Myers, director of Student Health Services and College Physician; Janine Everett, professor and director of the Public
Health program; and Mike Wetzel, associate vice-president for Facilities Management and Campus Planning.

Topics of debate included what products would be banned under a tobacco-free campus and how students, especially those who currently consume those products, would felt about it.

Everett spoke about the health implications of using e-cigarettes after a student suggested excluding e-cigarettes within a tobacco free campus, while Wetzel shared a rare perspective seldom heard by students: Although there have not been instances of any open flames, he said he receives dozens of complaints from the campus community (students, faculty and staff) about individuals smoking close to buildings and not effectively disposing of cigarette butts.

This called into question the implementation and enforcement  of current smoking policies that already exist in F&M’s student manual.

“There are smoking policies in place on campus, but hardly anyone abides by the rules,” said Jeong, “When legal adults exercise their right to smoke without adhering to the rules, it infringes on the rights of other individuals in the community who may be harmed by secondhand smoking.”

Asked why having a discourse on the matter was important, Mark Harmon-Vaught ’15, Diplomatic Congress President, commented, “The idea for a forum on tobacco use came first and foremost from the student body itself: Toward the end of last year, we noticed the issue coming up in discussions among students, and decided it was important to have a campus-wide conversation about it.”

Early next Spring, DipCon plans to send out a survey to determine student opinion on a tobacco-free F&M. Should there turn out to be a majority consensus, DipCon will
work with Margaret Hazlett, dean of the College, and other administrators in order to come to an effective compromise with students, faculty, and staff about what substances would be included under a tobacco-free policy and where smokers would be able to smoke on campus without propagating the
health harms associated with passive smoking.

The F&M Forum on Tobacco is the prototype for a series called the F&M Forums, which DipCon plans to hosts on a regular basis starting Spring 2015. This forum sets a precedent for discussion of other topics that are of interest to the student community, such as ways to better engage in the Lancaster community, alcohol use on campus, the college’s sustainability efforts, and so on. Student suggestions can be forwarded to diplomatic.congress@fandm.edu.

First-year Indira Rahman is a contributing writer. Her email is irahman@fandm.edu.

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