Tobacco free campus?
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Tobacco free campus?

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The Vermont State College Board of Trustees have already decided that Johnson State College will be a tobacco-free campus by the fall of 2018, but students are invited to help decide just how that goal will be achieved.

The VSC Chancellor’s Office has recently asked each of their campuses to create student oriented implementation planning teams following the May 2016 decision to develop system-wide tobacco-free campus policies.

Creating these teams on each campus is an attempt to successfully implement the future policy. Consisting of staff, faculty, student, smoker and non-smoker representatives, teams will ask questions, show concerns and give individual input to help with the implementation plan that will deal with both smokeless and smoking tobacco products.

Michele Whitmore, the interim dean of students at JSC, will facilitate the JSC team’s effort with Sharron Scott, the dean of administration.

For JSC’s team, Whitmore says she is in search of three to five student representatives and that student participation is imperative to a successful tobacco free implementation. The time commitment for the team will consist of one to three one hour meetings this semester, followed by meetings in the spring as well.

Whitmore noted that she thinks the main focus of the teams will be on both an educational and health point of view. “It will take our entire community to help us successfully transition to a tobacco-free environment,” said Whitmore. “I imagine there will be signage throughout our campus, including at both entrances, letting visitors know that our campus is a tobacco-free environment. Cigarette dispensers will likely be removed from campus grounds.”

In April 2016, Dr. Henry Chen, commissioner for the Vermont Department of Health, gave a presentation, titled “Vermont Tobacco Free Initiative,” to the Educational Personnel Student Life subcommittee on the VSC Board of Trustees.

This presentation proved to be a key fuel for the board in passing the following motion that took place on May 26, 2016 at a full meeting: “I move that the Chancellor’s Office work with our colleges to develop a system-wide Tobacco-Free Campus Policy and implementation plan for consideration at our late fall 2016 Board meeting, with the expectation said policy would be in effect no later than the fall of 2018.”

Tobacco-free policies have been spreading across the country. According to, college and university campuses can have a large impact on tobacco cessation and prevention efforts given the very small number of people that start using tobacco beyond the traditional college-age years.

Whitmore noted that there are approximately 1,400 United States colleges and universities that have moved to being tobacco-free. Some Vermont campuses on the list are the University of Vermont, Springfield College, Albany College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences and Saint Michael’s College.

With her lead role in the team, Whitmore believes that JSC should be obligated to provide a healthy campus environment for its community, including the elimination of smoke and exposure to secondhand smoke.

“The majority of JSC’s community members are smoke-free and have a right to breath in clean air,” said Whitmore. “Research shows that the number of smokers who initiated smoking after age 18 increased from 600,000 in 2002 to one million in 2010; therefore, colleges have a strong opportunity to create and sustain tobacco-free living for this generation.”

As for overall community reactions, Whitmore says she hopes the community will see the health benefits and the importance of working in and living in a tobacco-free environment. “While I am not a smoker myself, I can appreciate the challenges this may cause for those who smoke and absolutely want to include them in this process,” she said.

JSC junior Ben Beers noted that he will likely be done with his time at JSC when this policy goes into effect. He considers himself someone who occasionally enjoys a cigar and feels that, as long as smokers are away from the campus buildings, everything should be fine as it is now.

“I believe that a smoke free campus is just a way for the college to accommodate everyone who chooses not to use tobacco,” said Beers. “I know smoke is proven to be bad for health, but the school shouldn’t place more restrictions on their current smoking policy, which simply says that students must be certain proximities from the buildings.”

JSC junior Kate Abdel-Fatah thinks it’s a good step for the colleges to put together these teams to reassure that voices are heard, but she feels that things might be moving a little too quickly. “After hearing about the motion that was passed last month, I was a little taken back, because right now there doesn’t seem to be much on our campus that is stopping people from smoking within the current 25 feet and walking while smoking policies on campus,” says Abdel-Fatah. “I believe that we need to take additional steps before jumping right into the tobacco ban that will better regulate the current policies in preparation for the soon to come ban.”

For more information on the imposed VSC policy, and the JSC implementation team, Whitmore is encouraging students to contact her or speak with a member of the JSC or VSC Student Government Associations.

To get into contact with Whitmore regarding this topic, or inquire about the JSC implementation team, you can visit her office in Dewey Hall, email her at or call at (802) 635-1200.