Our Opinion: Luzerne County Community College dares to stamp out tobacco use; other campuses may follow

August 31st, 2016 5:32 pm

In a bold move, Luzerne County Community College officials made a cold-turkey declaration that as of the start of classes this week the campus is entirely tobacco-free.

For users of cigarettes, snuff and other products, it means no more getting a nicotine fix while on LCCC’s property. Not indoors. Not outdoors (including at its athletic fields). Not in college-owned vehicles.

Proponents of the new policy, which went into effect Monday, even intend to encourage a smoke-free atmosphere “to the extent possible, at all college-sponsored events held off-campus,” according to the regulations. Don’t be surprised if other local campuses soon follow suit.

LCCC can claim to be the first of the county’s institutions of higher education to declare its grounds totally off-limits for tobacco use, but it’s hardly alone among the nation’s colleges. As of April, about 1,140 U.S. campuses were considered entirely tobacco-free, according to Americans for Nonsmokers’ Rights, a California-based lobby organization that maintains a website at no-smoke.org.

“We expect this number to continue to climb rapidly as a result of the growing social norm supporting smoke-free environments, and support from within the academic community for such policies for campus health and well-being,” the website states.

LCCC’s students, staffers and campus visitors alike are subject to the new rules, which replace a policy of permitting smokers to light up at designated outdoor areas, such as the gazebos that formerly dotted the Nanticoke campus. A student who repeatedly violates the policy potentially will face escalating fines, of $10 to $50, followed by possible suspension or expulsion.

Disgruntled smokers might lodge complaints this semester, even organize a formal pushback. If so, we urge LCCC’s administrators to stick to their health-conscious strategy.

“Tobacco use is the number one cause of preventable illness and death across the nation,” according to information distributed by Geisinger, the regional health care provider that previously banned tobacco use on its premises. Geisinger’s policy applies to all of its sites, according to its online human resources manual, with the exception of the Marworth addiction-treatment center.

Similarly, Marywood University in Scranton touts a tobacco-free campus. “As a leader in the community,” its policies and procedures manual states, “the university takes seriously its responsibility to demonstrate healthy lifestyles.”

At Luzerne County Community College, policy makers are not unsympathetic to the hardship that the new anti-tobacco rules might present to certain users. Staffers can seek help with tobacco-cessation efforts through the college’s Human Resources Office; students, meanwhile, are encouraged to contact the Student Life and Athletics Office.

Support for people quitting the smoking habit also can be found online at smokefree.gov.