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“Tobacco-Free Campus” Survey Results Revealed

Brandi Cockerham, Writer
February 4, 2013
Filed under Student Life & News

A couple of weeks ago, the Student Government Association (SGA) had a few tables set up in the student center for students to complete a survey asking their opinion of Catawba becoming a tobacco-free campus. SGA decided to reveal the results of the survey last Tuesday, January 29th in Tom Smith Auditorium. Unfortunately, attendance was less than desirable. Only eight students (including myself) arrived at 11am to hear the results.

Upon arrival, each student was handed a packet titled “Sample Catawba College Tobacco-Free Policy.” The first three pages of the packet contained an actual sample policy whereas the fourth and fifth pages were results of two questions asked on the survey. The sixth and seventh pages were a list of North Carolina Colleges and Universities that were either smoke-free or tobacco-free.

Leading the results reveal and discussion was SGA Student Body President, Jana Burkhardt; Dean of Students, Ben Smith; and post-baccalaureate student, Jessica Bound. As each student arrived, Dean Smith asked their opinion and how they felt about our campus becoming smoke or tobacco-free.

After hearing everyone’s opinion, Dean Smith and Jana Burkhardt reviewed the survey results. 410 students responded to the survey and 285 students said that “If Catawba became tobacco free, they would support this decision.” Meanwhile, 125 students said that they would not support this decision.

The other question that was asked on the survey was “If Catawba became smoke free, would you support this decision?” The survey results showed that 309 students would support this decision and 101 students would not. After discussing the survey results, Dean Ben Smith opened the floor for questions, comments, and concerns.

A question on seemingly everyone’s mind was: “How would spit tobacco use be controlled?” Dean Smith said that he would look to other schools that are tobacco-free to get ideas on how to control the use of spit tobacco products. SGA Student Body President, Jana Burkhardt explained that dip cans and dip bottles would be allowed in rooms, but it would be expected that users of spit tobacco would go off campus to dip. Obviously, spit tobacco is not a tobacco product that is hazardous to anyone’s health as long as they are not using it. Burkhardt explained that the main issue with spit tobacco is that “…dip spit is a visible mess to resident assistants and the housekeeping staff.” Other reasons that Catawba is looking to be tobacco-free according to Dean Smith is to “…promote overall healthy living of students, staff, and faculty and also to hopefully increase enrollment.”

Other questions asked were “What will be next? What will Catawba want to take away next from their students?,” “What will be done to help those who are addicted to tobacco quit their habit?” and “If Catawba was to become tobacco-free, when would this policy go into place?” Dean Smith and SGA Student Body President took turns addressing these questions.

Dean Smith explained that Catawba College does not intend on ever becoming a dry campus. He also said that there will be cessation programs available to students, faculty and staff. Burkhardt specified: “Cessation programs (paid for through a grant) will be individualized with help from the nurses and the faculty’s insurance will cover the cost of their cessation programs.” Post-baccalaureate student, Jessica Bound shared her opinion as well, saying that “If Catawba was tobacco-free, the campus would more eco-friendly, in turn, bringing more prospective students.” According to Dean Smith, if the policy is passed and Catawba becomes a tobacco-free, the earliest that the policy would be put into place would be January of 2014.

Another issue that several of the students in attendance had was the fact that there was a table displaying a smoker’s lung compared to a non-smoker’s lung next to the table that SGA was conducting surveys at. Sophomore Laura Rodgers claimed “It is possible that smokers avoided taking the survey because of the anti-smoking message being displayed right next to the survey station.” Dean Smith replied, saying “I feel that the results would not have changed regardless of whether or not the anti-smoking table was next to the survey table.” Jana Burkhardt also agreed and went on to say that she e-mailed all of the commuters and that “The results of the survey were identical to the results of those students who live on campus.”

Burkhardt shared that when SGA voted on whether or not Catawba should be a tobacco-free campus, “The majority voted that Catawba should not become tobacco-free. The vote was 12 to 5, in favor of not changing the policy.” She went on to explain that “SGA will present their findings to the Board of Trustees and that they are the ones who make the final decision on whether or not to change the tobacco policy. We will be sure to provide both sides of the argument.”

Now it is just a waiting game. The Board of Trustees meetings are scheduled for February 18th and 19th and the decision will be made during this time whether or not the campus of Catawba College will become tobacco-free.

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