Tobacco-free policy begins

July 1 marked the start of RPI’s tobacco-free initiative, which will prohibit usage of any tobacco product within the confines of campus. The policy applies to anyone on campus, including visitors and vendors. According to its website, the Institute decided to create a tobacco-free campus because of the evidence that tobacco use and second-hand smoke are significant health hazards.

“Tobacco use” includes not only smoking tobacco through a cigarette, cigar, pipe, or other device, but also the use of chewing or smokeless tobacco.

The policy will be enforced through the use of “progressive corrective actions,” according to Vice President of Human Resources Curtis Powell. These disciplinary actions are “verbal counseling and education about the health effects of tobacco use” on the first offense; written warnings on the second; a monetary fine or community service on the third; and “other appropriate disciplinary actions in accordance with the Student Handbook of Rights and Responsibilities for students and the Human Resources Policy Guidelines for faculty and staff” for subsequent offenses.

The counseling sessions will be conducted through the Capital Employee Assistance Program, and smoking cessation classes will be available on and off campus.

Despite indications during the spring semester’s Pizza with the Cabinet that the policy would be enforced by “community policing” and no monetary fines, the Institute decided to include fines in the enforcement procedures after receiving feedback from faculty, staff, and students, said Powell.

When asked what specific actions would be taken after the third offense, Powell said, “It is difficult to respond to a ‘what if’ offense. The intent is not to punish violators, but to assist such violators with professional assistance that is meant to improve their quality of life.”

Some students, such as Grand Marshal co-terminal student Ben Hunt ’10, have mentioned the possibility of having specific areas of campus designated as smoking areas, rather than having a ban in place over the entire campus. Some other smoke-free universities have followed this model, such as San Francisco State University, at which “Facilities and Service Enterprises is responsible for identifying designated smoking areas.” In response to this idea, Powell noted several statistics about the negative effects of tobacco use and second-hand smoke. He then explained that, “Smoke-free workplaces are the only way to eliminate secondhand smoke exposure.”

While praising the tobacco-free initiative’s ability to improve campus health, Hunt stated that, “What becomes difficult with this new policy is enforcement. As written in HR Policy Guide 800.3 ‘Tobacco Use,’ enforcement is vague and amorphous. I will be working with HR to hopefully develop more adequately defined enforcement guidelines so that no students are met with surprising penalties.”

To read the policy, go here.