Smoking Policy “Know Your Rights” Forum

By Madeline Cox

In response to the recent change in tobacco policy at Lewis & Clark, ASCL held a “Know Your Rights” forum on Nov. 28. The forum was hosted by ASLC Chief Justice Ariel McGee, who posed questions to a panel consisting of Vice President David Reese, Dean of Students Andrew McPheeters, and Associate Director for Health Promotion Melissa Osmond. The goal of the forum was to inform students about the changes to their rights under the new tobacco policy.

Reese began the forum by discussing the recent change to Oregon law surrounding tobacco products.

“The Oregon legislature last year passed a bill, Senate Bill 754, that raised the age to legally to buy tobacco products in Oregon from 18 to 21, (and) established penalties on retailers who violate that, not people who are under 21,” Reese said.

Reese further discussed how the new law affects educational institutions in Oregon.

“Also put in that law (is that) all public and private schools, colleges, community colleges, and universities in the state are required to not permit a person under 21 to possess tobacco products or inhalant delivery systems while that person is present on college grounds, in college buildings, or attending college sponsored activities,” Reese said. “(Colleges) must have written policy that does that, and must have written plan dealing with that policy. This had to become (LC’s) policy with regard to at least people under 21.”

The new tobacco policy changed LC to an entirely smoke-free campus, prohibiting tobacco use on campus for people who are over 21 also.

“The policy applies to everybody, students, faculty, employees, contractors, visitors, summer events, everything on the campus or sponsored by the college,” Reese said.

As of now, the disciplinary action when someone is found smoking on campus has not changed under the new tobacco policy.

“If a student is smoking inside a building, the policy is no different than it has been for decades, a report is filed and office of Rights and Responsibilities responds to that,” McPheeters said. “If it is outside a building, there has been no reporting system or action taken at this time.”

Trespassing, littering, and harassment of neighbors by individuals connected to LC are actions that the college would take disciplinary action against, whether or not they are in relation to smoking. These actions have been of concern to the LC administration since the change to the tobacco policy.

Neither Reese, McPheeters, nor Osmond were involved directly with creating the new smoke-free campus policy at LC, but they were aware of the new state law and the changes that would have to occur in response.

“(During the summer) I became aware that maybe students didn’t have a full understanding about (the change to LC) policy, so we did send out some communications in August,” McPheeters said.

As Associate Director for Health Promotion, Osmond worked on making resources for tobacco cessation available to students.

“My role on campus is primarily to help support students who want to quit tobacco use,” Osmond said. “I’ve been working all summer to have systems in place for people who are interested in quitting.”

Osmond has found that few students have utilized these resources.

“We set up all these programs and resources for students who want to quit, and we haven’t had a whole lot of response to that,” Osmond said. “I acknowledge that is hard to quit if people are addicted (to nicotine), and we want to be able to support students that want to quit.”

When the forum was opened up to questions and feedback from the audience, one audience member suggested that students should be more educated on the statistics produced by the college’s Health and Wellness surveys, especially concerning nicotine use. They also suggested that resources available to students should be better promoted, and that having an information session about the programs in place for students to quit smoking would help students be better educated on the resources available to them. Osmond was open to further recommendations on how to promote the tobacco cessation resources available on campus.

“I’m very open to suggestions on how to get the word out, because I do a lot of different communications on a monthly basis,” Osmond said. “If it’s not reaching them, I’m not doing my job.”

Senator Jack Bishop ‘21 was concerned with the effect that the new tobacco policy has had on the environment at LC, specifically the amount of cigarette butts that can now be found in a variety of places around campus. Bishop suggested creating designated smoking area-like spaces or putting more trash cans around campus where students could throw away their cigarette butts without actively promoting smoking.

Reese responded that the administration is aware of the issue, while McPheeters suggested that the college must walk a fine line between keeping the campus clean and not promoting smoking.   

“Facilities staff are making an effort to clean up areas where there are a lot of (cigarette) butts,” Reese said. “We don’t want to make it easier not to comply with the policy by picking up people’s cigarette butts, but on the other hand we thought it was kind of necessary to do that.”  

McPheeters brought up the concern that the removal of DSAs has eliminated key social places on campus.

“If DSAs were an essential part of how students are having a positive experience (at LC), then we need to replicate that in other ways,” McPheeters said.

McGee suggested creating a survey asking students for their input on how to create new social spaces on campus and how to generally improve the social environment of LC.

Overall, the panel members agreed that the tobacco policy has been successful in achieving its goals.

“The goal of the policy is to disincentive smoking,” Reese said. “President Wiewel believes that this is the right policy because we were incentivizing and normalizing smoking.”

McPheeters elaborated that the goal of the policy was to reduce the number of smokers.

“We think that less people are taking on a new habit of smoking,” McPheeters said. “That was the goal, so we feel like the policy has accomplished the goal.”

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