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Smoking to be banned at Mercer starting in January

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According to the newest form of the Smoke-Free Campus policy, starting on January 1, 2013, students will not be allowed to smoke on any “campus grounds or property.” This will include, “but is not limited to, parking lots, athletic fields, playgrounds, tennis courts, and any other outdoor area under the control of the college.”

Students, faculty and staff who violate the new policy will face fines. The policy states that there will be: “a fine in the amount of $25 for the first offense, $50 for the second offense, and $100 for each subsequent offense.” The policy also states that “visitors who refuse to comply with this policy may be escorted off the premises by security staff.”

The college’s policy cites the US Environmental Protection Agency’s classification of second-hand smoke as a “Group A” carcinogen as reasoning for the ban.

In an interview with the VOICE, Mercer’s president, Dr. Patricia Donohue, said that the college is not the first school to completely ban smoking on campus: “More colleges, both four year and two year, are going smoke-free every day… We’re not the front-runners on this.”

Donohue told the VOICE that the ban has already been approved by the Board, and verified that Mercer’s grounds will be “smoke-free” starting January 1.

When asked about the reasons for the smoking ban, Donohue cited the health hazards associated with smoking. “Smoke-free is about health. And not just the health of the smokers, but the research studies that are available now about the second-hand smoke, the non-smoker who goes through it, that it is really a very lethal carcinogen,” she said.

Donohue said, “We want to create as much positive spirit around this, about this is a health campaign. It’s about everybody. It’s also about the sanitation. When our smokers leave their residue around campus, and in places where it doesn’t belong. It doesn’t work… People, when they have to walk through the mess they feel like it’s smoke city.”

Mark Moses, third year Music major here at Mercer spoke with the VOICE about the policy change. “Aside from the rumors and whatnot, I know that the legitimate reason [for the ban] is because our school president does not like smoking.”

Moses addressed the lack of social spaces around campus as well: “[The smoking huts] are just central hubs to hang out and meet with your friends. You see people with and without cigarettes in their hands all day.” He continued, “the amount of social interaction that takes place at the hut is a central part of many students’ college experience here at Mercer. If that’s the medium that gets people together, then what’s wrong with that?”

John Wuethrich, Education major at MCCC, said that he doubts the practicality of a smoke-free campus. “People are going to smoke,” Wuethrich said, “Now that I know it’s a campus-wide ban, people are just going to smoke everywhere.”

Wuethrich has been taking classes at Mercer for three years, and said that he doubts the sincerity of the new policy: “I give it two months before it gets repealed.” Wuethrich did little to mask his frustration with the school’s administration: “the new president can go to hell, and you can put me on record saying that.”

Computer Science major, Victor Belasco-Gracia, pointed out the difficulties that will be presented for student-smokers by the ban: “Learning is state sensitive,” Belasco-Gracia said, “being in a state of nicotine withdrawal is not conducive for any of the smokers in this school to do well in their classes.”

Donohue told the VOICE that the college will be offering free “smoking cessation clinics” by the end of this semester to help any students and faculty who would like to quit smoking.

Second year Music major, Lou Borcsik, voiced different concerns with the new policy. “Kids are still going to smoke,” Borcsik said, “and I think it’s going to happen more in the parking lot… That’s going to cause more congestion in the parking lot, and probably more theft.”

There were multiple students in support of the ban on smoking. Zsofia Kancsal, 2nd year Radiology student at MCCC, said that she thinks the smoking ban is a good thing because smoking is detrimental to your health. She also cited the problem of littering around the smoking huts: “It’s gross, and they’re just throwing their shit everywhere.”

Timothy Hoffman, a current SGA officer, told the VOICE his personal reason for supporting the ban saying: “I think it’s a great idea,” said Hoffman, “I actually have asthma, so walking back and forth to the lots with people smoking kind of bothers me. People here had their chances with the smoking hut, and they kind of abused it. I feel bad for the people who did follow the rules, but it is what it is.”

As for the implementation of the new policy, President Donohue said, “Well, like everything else we’ve done, we will try to have a period of giving warnings and letting people know.”

President Donohue went on to say, “I can’t tell them they can’t smoke. I can tell them they can’t smoke here.”

The Mercer County Community College “Smoke-Free Campus” policy, OMB 695, was first written in 1982, and has been discontinued, reinstated and revised several times since then. The most recent revision to this policy was approved by the Board of Trustees on June 21, 2012.

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