PITTSBURG, Kan. —
Pittsburg State University is inching closer to being a smoke-free campus.
Last week, those co-chairing the university’s tobacco policy task force said the recommendation just lacks final approval by the President’s Council and the Kansas Board of Regents.
It’s been a slow road for the policy, but Rita Girth and Jim Triplett, who head up the task force, said that’s been a positive thing.
“Time was important” to the policy’s creation, Triplett said. “It was good it wasn’t rushed through.”
In the spring of 2012, a student referendum suggested 77 percent approval of such a policy, prompting President Steve Scott to form the tobacco policy task force. In spring of 2013, after a study gathered input from students, faculty and staff, the task force recommended that the campus be smoke free.
Of those surveyed, 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’d be more likely to stay, 9.2 percent said they’d 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, according to lead researcher Alicia Mason, an assistant professor in the Department of Communications, self-identified as tobacco users.
In June, the task force presented to the President’s Council for consideration its recommendation to make the campus smoke free. That didn’t happen as quickly as first anticipated.
“The faculty bargaining unit then decided to look at it and make sure they understood whether it was stated as a condition of employment,” Triplett said.
“They wanted to make sure faculty wouldn’t be terminated or denied raises and such based on smoking.”
Last fall, a clause was added to the contract under negotiation with the bargaining unit that stipulated tobacco use had no bearing on employment. The regents are to consider that contract on Wednesday, Girth said.
Once the policy is approved, as Girth and Triplett anticipate happening, Scott will issue a charge to the task force to move into the implementation phase.
“We’ll develop a timeline, a sequence of issues to address, signs, communications, education, expectations for compliance and enforcement,” Girth said.
Going smoke free is not something that can be done overnight, the leaders noted. Housing contracts, for example, are signed well in advance of students beginning a semester on campus, and students will need to be aware that smoking is not allowed even outside their apartments.
“We need to give everyone plenty of notice so they can be successful,” Girth said.
Likely it wouldn’t happen in time for the fall 2014 semester, she noted, but probably would be implemented by fall 2015.
Nationally, the trend has gained momentum in recent years. As of April 2013, there were 1,159 smoke-free campuses, and of them, 783 were tobacco-free, according to the American Nonsmokers’ Rights Foundation, which publishes a list regularly. By Jan. 2, there were 1,182.
“Two years ago, there were half that many,” Girth said. “It’s a trend.”
In Kansas, there are 13 smoke-free institutions, the largest being the University of Kansas Medical Center’s two campuses. In addition, the Kansas Clean Indoor Air Act became effective July 1, 2010. The law covers indoor public places and workplaces including restaurants and bars.
Several years ago, PSU became the first Kansas Regents institution in which residence halls voluntarily went smoke free.