Smoking forum stirs debate around campus

No Smoking SignA final decision on a WCC smoking ban has yet to be made, but many who spoke at a March 16 forum favored returning to campus “smoking zones.”

The forum began with head of security Rick Murray giving a presentation about the possibility of the campus becoming smoke-free and the benefits it would provide. He stated, “Of the over 7,000 chemicals found in cigarettes, 70 of them are found to cause cancer.”

He also cited research that showed if someone did not smoke before the age of 26 they were unlikely to begin smoking at an older age. After his presentation, the floor was opened for students, faculty and staff to speak on the issue.

The population of campus smokers was out in force with many speaking against the idea of a total ban.

“I’ve been smoking for 33 years, and I like it,” said Annette Priestman, WCC English teacher. “It is my personal choice to smoke… (and) to make WCC a smoke-free campus is discrimination.”

However, a student spoke about the impact second-hand smoke had on her. “One problem I have always had was the smoking they have in the back of TRiO… I am a chronic asthmatic. I had to drop a class this semester,” she said. “It is a very serious health issue for me.”

According to the Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion 23 million people have been diagnosed with asthma and 13.6 million with COPD, so for some, second-hand smoke can be a real issue.

A Stanford University study cited at the forum measured the effect of secondhand smoke in outdoor areas. The study found that if you are at least 6 feet away from a smoker you receive a very low amount of second-hand smoke.

One researcher said, “These results show what common sense would suggest—when you’re within a few feet downwind of a smoker, you get exposed, but when you go a little distance or stay upwind, the exposure goes way down. If there’s just one smoker, and you can sit 6 feet away, you would have little problem.”

The study seems to support the idea that clearly designated “smoking zones” on campus could be a compromise for both smokers and non-smokers. If placed out of high-traffic areas, the zones could accommodate smokers without having to worry about whether their second-hand smoke is harming those who have chronic lung diseases.

“If we can just compromise and get a smoking area, we can keep a balance,” said Michelle, a WCC student.

by Jonathan Blais, Ka ‘Ohana Staff Reporter