FSU goes tobacco-free

(Photo courtesy of Gatepost archives)

Framingham State University implemented a policy that banning the use of all tobacco and nicotine products on campus starting Sept. 1.

This policy follows a year-long debate on whether the school should be smoke-free or tobacco-free. It was discussed by a committee, community discussion and governance review

Before the policy was put in place, students, faculty and visitors were permitted to smoke cigarettes in the designated smoking areas around the university. Now, no one can bring tobacco products on campus.

“I appreciate not having to walk through a crowd of smokers,” said junior English major Caitlyn Kelleher.

FSU joined 17 other Massachusetts university campuses, including Salem State and Bridgewater State universities and UMass Amherst, when it adopted the policy of not allowing these products on campus.

Director of the Health Center Ilene Hofrenning said, “It’s our college taking a stand” [against smoking].

The new policy calls for a ban on all tobacco and nicotine products on campus including cigarettes, chewing tobacco and even electronic cigarettes, which only produce vapor, not smoke, when exhaled.

“They [electronic cigarettes] are not regulated by the FDA,” Hofrenning said. “There needs to be more research done on them before they can be allowed” [on campus].

Hofrenning said the main goal of this policy is to promote a healthy community. “It’s meant to help everyone on campus.”

Many students do not agree with the tobacco-free policy.

Senior math major Nicole Urato said, “I can understand why they don’t want students to smoke, but taking away their right to on campus is a little extreme.”

Chief of Staff and General Counsel Rita Colucci said, “There are some people still smoking.” She said there have been cigarette butts found around buildings, so the smoking “hasn’t completely stopped.”

Junior business major Mark Zina said, “I finish my cigarette in the parking lot before I head to class. I put the butt out in my car, so I don’t see a problem with that.”

According to the “Framingham State Tobacco-Free Campus Initiative” Facebook page, about 420 cigarette butts have been found behind North Hall and about 224 cigarette butts behind Larned Hall. The surveys of the campus on Sept. 25 and Sept. 30 found about 819 cigarette butts total.

Sophomore math major Samantha Plante said, “If I want to smoke, I’m going to smoke. I have ten minutes between classes, so I don’t have time to leave campus to smoke.”

Colucci said although the smoking on campus hasn’t stopped, “We try to be positive about it.” She said there are smoking cessation classes available to students and faculty, as well as group counseling and one-on-one sessions.

Along with the classes and counseling, Colucci said there were two students hired by the task force who walked around the campus together to help enforce FSU’s tobacco-free policy. Their job is “to see whether people are violating the policy or not.”

Colucci said because smoking on campus is a violation of university policy, judicial charges could be brought against anyone who does so, but she does not see that happening. “If campus police sees someone smoking, they would approach them, but probably wouldn’t give them a ticket.”

Senior business major Krista LaPlante said, “You can’t just tell a smoker not to smoke. They can’t be expected to quit overnight because of the new policy.”

In an email sent to students on Sept. 1, Interim President Robert Martin said, “While I appreciate all of the efforts made to refrain from smoking on campus, I would ask you, in consideration for our neighbors, to make every attempt to lessen the impact of off-campus smoking on their private properties.”

Now that FSU is tobacco-free, Colucci said that people are going off campus to smoke. It is a problem she said the administration did not foresee, and now “our neighbors have been upset because there are people smoking on their streets.”

Hofrenning said she has received complaints from local residents about people smoking in front of their houses.

Colucci said, “We want to communicate to students to please be respectful of our neighbors.”

The construction employees who are working on the Hemenway Hall addition have been seen smoking while they are on campus by two Gatepost reporters.

When asked if he knew about the tobacco-free policy, a construction worker said, “No one has said anything to us.”

Colucci said, “It is up to the company to enforce it [the policy] with their employees.”

The administrators said the policy is designed to help students and employees to quit smoking.

In his email to students, Martin said, “I am well aware of the challenges that quitting or limiting one’s smoking can present.”

Junior English major Rachel Dodge said, “It’s hard trying not to smoke until I’m out of class for the day. Sometimes I can’t even focus during a lecture because I crave a cigarette and I’m not allowed to step out for a minute to smoke.”

Hofrenning’s concern is that many students are “social smokers,” and she does not want them to become “full-blown addicts” while they are in college. She said she hopes this policy will not only help the social smokers not become addicted, but also help the students who are addicted to cigarettes to try to kick the habit for good.

“No one looks into the future and says, ‘I hope to still be smoking in 20 years,’” Hofrenning said. “No one plans to be a lifelong smoker.”

The tobacco-free campus policy is not only aimed at helping smokers quit, but it is also to help keep the non-smokers healthy and away from second-hand smoke. “When smoke is inhaled, toxins are inhaled,” Hofrenning said. “Arsenic, aldehyde and other irritants are all in cigarette smoke and can cause illness.”

Hofrenning said when smokers become ill, their symptoms are usually more severe.

However, she added that when smokers quit, their health almost immediately starts to improve. “There are no negative effects to quitting.”

According to www.whyquit.com, after just eight hours of quitting, any remaining nicotine in a person’s bloodstream will be reduced by 93.75 percent. After 72 hours of not smoking a cigarette, a person’s body will test 100 percent nicotine-free.

After three months of not smoking, a person’s heart attack risk rate has dropped and the function of his or her lungs have improved. A person’s circulation has also improved, and walking becomes easier.

Sophomore business major Danny Bigelow said, “I quit smoking three months ago and I feel really good. I have more energy and I feel more productive with my schoolwork and life outside of school.”

Sophomore math major Melina Eldridge said, “You hear so much about secondhand smoke and how bad it is. I tried to only smoke where it was allowed last semester because I didn’t want to affect anyone who wasn’t smoking.”

Hofrenning said, “This policy is meant to improve the health of the entire Framingham State community. Overall, it has been a positive response.”

Colucci said, “We’re a community. This was a community decision. It is our hope that people respect that decision.”