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Tobacco-Free Campus Update

By Lydia McGee
On March 28, 2018

Tobacco cessation education accompanies this change.
Photo Courtesy of HowStuffWorks

Concord University will now have designated smoking areas. Beginning Aug. 1, 2018, the Athens campus will officially restrict all smoking and vaping to the covered area behind the J. Frank Marsh Library, the gazebo between Marsh Hall and the Fine Arts building, the gazebo between Wilson Hall and North Towers, and the covered patio by the Carter Center, according to an email sent to the student body.

Tobacco cessation education and support accompanies this change. As reported by Marjie Flanigan, vice president of student affairs, Dr. Donald Reed, a Mayo Clinic certified tobacco treatment specialist, is currently leading tobacco cessation group meetings. These group meetings take place every Tuesday at 6 p.m. in the alumni lounge in the Jean and Jerry L. Beasley Student Center. Any campus member wishing to break a smoking or vaping habit may attend the meetings, including faculty, students, and staff.

In April 2017, Vice President of Administration & Associate Dean of Students Rick Dillon and Flanigan created a Concord University Tobacco Cessation Committee. This committee has been deliberating the possibility of a tobacco free campus since then. At the time, a great concern for Dillon and for the committee was having education to accompany any decision to go tobacco-free. Originally, Dillon, along with others in President Boggess’ cabinet, expressed concerns over possible negative effects a tobacco-free campus may have on future enrollment. Dillon also stated in an interview with the Concordian last spring that, if Concord implemented tobacco-free rules, that resident assistants would not be the sole enforcers, and that campus police might have to be involved. No information on how these rules will be enforced is available at this time.

This change comes in response to an initiative from 2016. Current SGA president Sarah Fancher initially kick-started the initiative with her committee. At the time, Fancher served as vice president and chair of CUSAC when an informal survey was conducted in an SGA meeting on February 8, 2016, two years ago. Discussion followed, but the majority of attendees voted in favor of a tobacco-free campus.

As a result, faculty, staff, and students were then all individually polled as separate groups. As reported by Flanigan, faculty voted 70 percent in favor of a tobacco-free campus, staff 61 percent, and students 51 percent. Altogether, 511 responses were tallied.

Regardless, enrolled students tended to vote in favor of a tobacco-free campus on the surveys. In the original survey sent out by the SGA specifically for students, an overwhelming two-thirds majority voted in favor of a tobacco-free campus, according to Fancher.

Last semester, an American Federal Government class carried out a project to encourage President Boggess to consider these numbers and to ban smoking on campus. They collected signatures for a petition. They succeeded in collecting nearly a hundred signatures.

In establishing a tobacco-free campus, Concord joins the major West Virginia universities. West Virginia University has been tobacco-free since 2013, and Marshall University established its tobacco-free status in the same year. As of spring of last year, Shepherd University stated that they were thinking of going tobacco-free, according to Shepherd Health Center Director Rebecca Boehler in a 2017 interview with local media.

This story will be updated as necessary.

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