SFCC Becomes a Tobacco-Free College
Following in the footsteps of Florida Hospital Heartland and Highlands Regional Medical Center locally, South Florida Community College will become a Tobacco-Free College as of Aug.1. SFCC is one of five Florida community colleges to adopt a Tobacco-Free College policy, and several others are currently considering adoption. This activity clearly reflects a growing trend, as over 500 colleges and universities nationwide have adopted tobacco-free-related policies.
SFCC will follow the new college policy that prohibits the use, distribution, or sale of tobacco or any object or device intended to simulate tobacco use, in all indoor and exterior areas of each campus, center, and other property under the control of the college. A tobacco-free policy differs from a smoke-free policy because it prohibits all forms of tobacco use.
According to Dr. Norm Stephens, president, SFCC, a variety of reasons prompted the college to embrace becoming a tobacco-free college including the endorsement of the concept by the faculty council; continuing concerns raised by students at open forums regarding the negative effects of tobacco use on campus; and the national trend of hospitals, colleges, and other public facilities going tobacco-free.
“Following discussions with the SFCC District Board of Trustees last fall, we carefully designed and distributed two surveys to determine the level of support or opposition among students and employees to the Tobacco-Free College initiative,” Dr. Stephens said. “Results of the survey indicated that 75 percent of employees and students supported adoption of the Tobacco-Free College policy.”
Glenn Little, vice president, Administrative Services, also cited some concerns that led to the policy. “Our main concern was the health and safety of our students and employees. Of course, there are the proven dangers of second-hand smoke, but there have been on-campus incidents as well. Cigarette butts are often not fully extinguished and have caused several small fires around campus, including a fire in the Bayhead Nature Trail last year which had to be extinguished by the fire department. That fire could have quickly gotten out of control.” Another health concern was the disposal of smokeless tobacco waste. “The waste is not discarded as it should be, and our custodians are forced to clean up the mess left behind,” Little said.
SFCC administration was also concerned about the message allowing tobacco use on campus sent to SFCC students. “As an educational institution, we teach the dangers of tobacco use in many of our courses as well as our nursing and dental programs. The more we learned, the more concerned many of us became about the college allowing a known carcinogen to affect our students and employees under our watch,” Little said.
Compliance with this policy is the shared responsibility and the right of all SFCC staff, students, and faculty members. Its success depends upon the courtesy, respect, and cooperation of users and non-users of tobacco products. “Respect for others and the encouragement of a healthier lifestyle for all is the main emphasis for this campaign, and we hope to promote it in a positive way that shows this policy is good for everyone,” Little said. “However,” he added, “we certainly support the rights of adults to choose to use tobacco products – just not here.”
SFCC offers a variety of resources that can be found on the college website to help those who wish to quit using tobacco products. The college will also work with the Area Health Education Center (AHEC) to offer free tobacco cessation classes for employees, students, and community members.
“Throughout history, humans have engaged in behaviors and practices that endangered health and safety without realizing the danger—often with fatal consequences,” Dr. Stephens said. “The use of tobacco products is certainly such an example. Now that we understand the harm to individuals and societies caused by this agent, it is time to act. Creating a Tobacco-Free College reflects our college mission and our commitment to providing a safe and healthy learning environment for our students, our employees, and the public.”
For more information on SFCC’s tobacco-free policy or for a list of tobacco cessation resources, visit the SFCC website at http://www.southflorida.edu/tobaccofree/.