By: Rebecca Reese, News Editor
Lyndon State College may soon become a completely smoke and tobacco-free campus.
The Alcohol, Tobacco and Other Drug Prevention Coalition of Northeastern Vermont Regional Hospital has been working with the College since 2011 to put smoke and tobacco-free policies in place.
“I have been working for Northeastern Vermont Regional Hospital for a year now as the Tobacco Prevention Coordinator with the Alcohol, Tobacco & Other Drug Prevention Coalition,” Bella McCartney said.
Her job consists of maintaining collaborative relationships with a wide variety of community partners and service providers in the Caledonia and Southern Essex County to improve tobacco prevention and efforts and programming to end smoking. This includes businesses, nonprofit, government agencies, healthcare providers and consumers. Most of their work includes environmental policy work within the community through grant activities and the collection of data from surveys.
“As a Tobacco Prevention Coordinator, I also represent our coalition initiative at state and local meetings including job related trainings,” McCartney said. “As a coalition, we promote Coalition activities via mass media outlets, e.g. radio, newspaper, public television and local news stations. We maintain communication with other state tobacco coalitions such as Vermont Department of Health specialists.”
McCartney says this what the coalition is trying to do is very important work.
“Prevention work is important because implementation of anti-tobacco campaigns and policies help reduce health disparities and have been proven to reduce tobacco use,” McCartney said. “Prevention activities that we know will work reduce healthcare costs and promotes the health and wellness of our community.”
Lyndon State College is no exception to the community McCartney works with.
NVRH has been working with LSC administration by attending meetings, participating in campus events, collecting surveys, passing out informational material and talking to students about quitting smoking. McCartney said they try to create awareness of the health risks involved with smoking as well as secondhand smoke.
McCartney has been seen in the Student Center handing out informational materials and at events such as Kick Butts Day.
“College students who smoke have higher rates of respiratory infections and asthma as well as a higher incidence of bacterial meningitis, especially among freshman living in dorms,” McCartney said. “I believe that all state college campuses should become 100% smoke and tobacco-free because of the serious health risks involved with smoking, aerosolizing and smokeless tobacco use. Risks includes asthma, ulcers, respiratory infections, heart attacks, strokes, cancer and other serious conditions related to tobacco use. Smokeless tobacco users and pipe and cigar smokers are more susceptible to mouth cancer, cancer of the larynx, and cancer of the esophagus.”
The dangers don’t only affect those who smoke, but also those around them.
“100% smoke and tobacco–free policies promote healthy living on campus for students and visitors, staff and faculty,” McCartney said. “Exposure to Environmental Tobacco Smoke (ETS), or ‘secondhand’ smoke, is harmful to both smokers and nonsmokers alike. ETS is an important student and employee issue on college campuses nationwide.”
McCartney says ETS has been classified as a Group A carcinogen by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
A carcinogen is a substance capable of causing cancer in living tissue. According to the American Cancer Foundation, the EPA uses a rating system when describing the cancer-causing potential of a substance. Group A means the substance is carcinogenic to humans.
“Smoking causes more than 440,000 US deaths per year, 42,000 of those deaths resulting from secondhand smoke exposure in people who have never smoked accounting for 1 out of every 5 deaths which result in 1,300 deaths per day,” said McCartney.
Although the physical dangers of smoking may seem obvious, but McCartney says that smoking has major effects on mental health as well.
“Mental health disorders have been strongly associated with smoking,” she said. “Smoking has been associated with suicidal tendencies. College students who are daily smokers are more than five times more likely to have either seriously thought about or attempted suicide than non-smokers. Smokers are two times more likely to develop a major depressive disorder.”
McCartney said in Vermont alone, over 800 people die each year from tobacco related illnesses. In fact, tobacco use is the leading cause of preventable death in the Green Mountain State.
“Our efforts in creating a smoke and tobacco free college campus for the health and wellbeing of students, visitors, staff and faculty have not been in vain,” she said. “Lyndon State College has recently included e-cigarettes in its existing non-smoking policy.”
A common misconception is that smoking vapor from electronic cigarettes is a safe alternative to smoking cigarettes. “Vaping” comes with a set of dangers of its own.
“The vapor from e-cigarettes not only contains nicotine, a highly addictive substance, but also contains many toxic chemicals that create serious and irreversible lung damage to the user and to those within proximity of the user,” McCartney said. “They are not regulated by the FDA so the safety of use is questionable. Many users of e-cigarettes are dual users. That is, they are also using tobacco products which put them at risk of nicotine poisoning.”
McCartney says she believes that the impact of a completely tobacco and smoke free policy at Lyndon State College is a positive move in the right direction.
McCartney recently gave a presentation to the Student Government Association on the dangers of e-cigarettes and secondhand smoke. She also recently spoke with the Head of the Health and Safety Committee about visiting the campus again in May “to do a presentation on the harmful effects of tobacco use and the positive effects that a100% tobacco and smoke free policy will have on LSC students, visitors, staff and faculty.”
In the near future, students may start to see more areas where smoking is not allowed.
“The Alcohol, Tobacco and Other Drug Prevention Coalition of NVRH is also working with the LSC Administration to receive 15 Signs that will be displayed all over the campus alerting people to areas where no smoking or aerosolizing are allowed.”
Student Cody Hill said, “I think it’s a terrible idea and it would never work.”
“Do you think the students addicted to nicotine are going to leave campus to smoke or vape a rule says so?” Hill said. “There is already a rule that says smoking only in parking lots, but you can walk through campus and see cigarette butts littered on the ground.”
However, RA Joshua Bautista believes it could work if there is a punishment set in place.
“I promote the idea of a 100% smoke free campus, but it’d be hard to implement,” Bautista said. “The population of students would continue to smoke on campus unless there would be some sort of punishment or consequence for doing so.”
Ultimately Bautista agrees with Hill.
“I’m not even sure what kind of punishment they could implement,” Bautista said. “Even if you made the consequence the same as documentations, students would still disregard the rule.”
Rules aside, student Jenny Greij may be a smoker herself but said, “I think it’s a good idea. If a lot of people can’t smoke on campus or get fined for it, it may help people quit or at least smoke less.”
Though LSC may be trying to go smoke-free, Vermont is moving in a different direction with marijuana becoming closer to legalization. Although the decision has not been made, when it is, McCartney said the Coalition would revisit the college and encourage them to include marijuana in an existing smoke and tobacco-free policy.
Lyndon State would not be the only college to adopt this type of policy. The University of Vermont has already become a 100% tobacco-free Campus on August 1, 2015. St. Michael’s College will not be far behind, as their tobacco-free policy will be in place this fall on September 1.
Anyone interested in quitting smoking can call ATOD at (802) 748-7532. The program offers free patches, gum, lozenges and counseling.
McCartney said, “We can help you quit!”