Survey says JSC students comfortable with smoking, mostly


Or is it?

Burlington last year flirted with banning smoking in some outdoor areas like city parks and Church Street. New York City already has bans in certain outdoor areas.

The culture of cigarette smoking has been in a nearly constant state of flux in the U.S. for decades, and the battle lines, once demarcated across the interiors of restaurants, bus stations and airplanes, were firmly pushed out-of-doors years ago almost everywhere in the nation.

Many feel outside isn’t far enough, and some here at JSC agree.

Advocates of an American’s right to destroy his or her own lungs cry foul, while proponents of that same American’s right not to have their neighbors’ bad habits cause them harm say it’s not enough.

The debate has arrived at Johnson, and JSC’s Professional Feature Writing Class recently conducted an informal survey to see where members of the JSC community stand on certain ideas that are being floated around, among them: a campus-wide ban on smoking, a designated smoking area and a complete prohibition on tobacco use at JSC.

The answers to the survey seem to suggest a degree of entrenchment on the part of some, tempered by a realization that things can and maybe should change on the part of others.

Members of the class, which is taught by Professor of Writing and Literature Tyrone Shaw, manned tables at the entrances to Stearns, VAC, SHAPE, and WLLC over the course of one week. To each location the class devoted a minimum of two hours per day. The 273 participants were selected by convenience, with people being asked to fill out surveys which asked eight relatively simple questions, with the first arguably being the most predictive:

1. Do you smoke tobacco? If so, do you want to quit?

Of 273 respondents, 78 answered, “Yes,” and 195 said, “No.” If the results are an accurate predictor, that’s about 29 percent who do smoke. Of the 78 who admitted to smoking, 33 copped to a desire to quit, or about 42 percent. The other 58 percent either have never seen a picture of a career smoker’s lung, weren’t being straight, or honestly like smoking, which is their American right. At the moment.

According to the Center for Disease Control, just over 18 percent of American adults in 2012 smoked tobacco, and just over 16 percent of adult Vermonters did as well. So, the JSC community seems to have more than its fair share of smokers, which might explain some of the seemingly pro-smoker tallies on the survey.

Still, a significant number of people at JSC feel that smoking is bringing them down, which is exactly what question 2 sought to answer:

2. Do you feel you are negatively affected by those smoking tobacco on campus?

Almost one out of four people felt that smoking was making their JSC experience less than it could have been, while about three out of four didn’t see a difference.

3. Do you feel campus restrictions on smoke are sufficient?

The answers to this question are somewhat telling, with about 21 percent saying they aren’t sure, 25 percent saying, “No,” and 54 percent responding, “Yes.” So, nearly half say things are just fine while almost one in five aren’t even willing to speculate, which seems a little odd when considering the responses to question 4:

4. Do you favor a designated smoking area (or areas) on campus?

If you consider that almost half said things are just fine answering question 3, it’s a little surprising that just under half said, “Yes,” to question 4. At the least, the one in five who weren’t sure on question 3 seemed to have located their resolve when a viable alternative, like a designated area, was presented. Still, 16 percent in question 4 were unsure about a smoking area.

5. Do you favor a campus-wide ban on all tobacco smoking?

Somewhat surprisingly, over 75 percent of the community said, “No,” 14 percent said, “Yes,” and 11 percent remained on the fence, a place of refuge for more and more respondents with each successive question on the survey.

6. Do you favor a campus-wide ban on all forms of tobacco products, including chewing tobacco?

These numbers were pretty much the same as the last question, with 17 percent saying, “No,” and 14 percent, a slight increase admitting to being undecided.

7. Do you think a campus-wide ban on smoking tobacco is enforceable?

The trend continues with 75 percent answering, “No,” and even more undecided, around 17 percent. The last question could arguably be on here just for the Admissions Department, but it actually should be interesting to anyone who cares about the face of JSC, as just under 30 percent said a smoking ban would have affected their college choice.

8. If there had been a smoking ban when you were considering Johnson State College, would it have made it more likely that you would attend or less likely?

Ten percent admitted they would have been more likely to attend, but 19 percent said they would have been less likely, with around 71 percent saying it would not have been relevant. A smoking prohibition, according to the results of the last question on the survey, would certainly change the type of student who would seek to attend JSC, but maybe that would be the point.

So, as smokers huff and puff on a dying tradition ever less tolerated by society, and non-smokers inhale deeply the sweet smell of their latest success in the battle against smoking, the students in Shaw’s Professional Feature Writing Class offer these survey results as food for thought.