By Andra Bryan Stefanoni
PITTSBURG, Kan. —
A task force charged with gathering information and opinions about making the Pittsburg State University campus tobacco-free held forth Wednesday at a public forum.
The task force, formed last fall by PSU President Steve Scott, is nearing its final phase of work and will make a recommendation to Scott next month.
No one in attendance at the forum openly opposed such a policy, although three individuals questioned the validity of the group’s survey, whether a university should take a form of stress relief away from stressed students, and how such a policy might be enforced.
The survey, which was administered in March, was representative of the entire campus, according to lead researcher Alicia Mason, an assistant professor in the Department of Communications.
“We had 41 percent male, 59 percent female, and age and race were reflective of the PSU population,” she said.
Those surveyed were 838 students, 242 staff members, 159 faculty members and 10 alumni.
Chris Kelly, associate vice president of university marketing and communication, said the task force includes representatives from the Student Government Association, the faculty senate, the classified senate, the unclassified senate, university police, housing, human resources, graduate students, athletics, marketing and communication, wellness and prevention, admissions, and PSU-KNEA, and includes at least one tobacco user and former users.
Task force co-chairwoman Rita Girth, operations director of the Bryant Student Health Center, said she directed those who led focus group discussions to seek out tobacco users to include in the groups.
“We’ve really worked hard to make certain everyone’s voice was heard,” Kelly said.
Mason said respondents leaned toward strongly agreeing that exposure to secondhand smoke is a health issue, that more needs to be done to curb smoking on campus, that the administration is responsible, and that litter caused by smoking is of concern.
Of those surveyed, about 50 percent said making the campus smoke-free would not change whether they continued to work, go to school or attend events at PSU, while 34.6 percent said they would be more likely to stay, 9.2 percent said they would be less likely to stay, and 6.4 percent did not answer the question.
Forty-five percent said they were very likely to support such a policy, while 21 percent said they were very unlikely to support one. Most of that 21 percent, Mason said, self-identified as tobacco users.
PSU was smoke-free before World War II. Upon the return of troops after the war, smoking was allowed. In 1995, a student brought a proposition to the Student Government Association to make the campus smoke-free again. Several years ago, PSU became the first Kansas Regents institution in which residence halls voluntarily went smoke-free.
In 2010, the Kansas Clear Air Act went into effect, eliminating tobacco use inside public buildings and within 10 feet of entrances. A student referendum in the spring of 2012 suggested 77 percent approval of making PSU a tobacco-free campus, prompting Scott to form the task force.
IN KANSAS, there are 13 smoke-free institutions, the largest being the University of Kansas Medical Center’s two campuses. In Missouri, there are 21 smoke-free institutions, the closest being Drury University at Springfield.