Coastal Carolina University goes tobacco-freeby Derrick Bracey
Coastal Carolina University is aiming to bolster the overall health of the campus and develop healthy students and employees by moving to a tobacco-free environment. At its quarterly meeting on Dec. 13, the board of trustees approved the initiative that will begin the process of making CCU tobacco-free by the beginning of the Fall 2014 semester.
“As it is stated in our mission statement, CCU is committed to developing students who are both knowledgeable in their chosen fields and prepared to be productive, responsible, healthy citizens with a global perspective,” says Stacie Bowie, vice president and chief financial officer. “Creating a healthy environment for students, faculty and staff is already one of CCU’s top priorities.”
The Tobacco-Free Campus initiative includes smoking cessation support programs and an educational campaign that will be made available to all members of the CCU campus community beginning in January 2014.
“It’s a good policy because it promotes overall wellness among employees and students alike,” says Brady Cross, an access services specialist at Kimbel Library, who was a smoker for 14 years and quit in 2008.
The initiative follows national and state trends that show more institutions of higher education going tobacco-free. Nationally, more than 1,100 campuses have adopted 100 percent smoke-free policies, including 20 higher education institutions in South Carolina.
CCU conducted campus surveys and compiled national facts about smoking and tobacco in relation to university communities. The surveys indicate that strong majorities, nearly 70 percent, of both faculty and students support going tobacco-free.
“It may be unpopular at first with some members of the campus because smokers have a physical need. They probably don’t want to walk off campus to fill that need,” says Cross. “But overall, the initiative is for the best because it has the best interests of the CCU community in mind.”
The research shows that the top feeder states for students coming to CCU all have comprehensive smoke-free communities. It shows that non-smoking students have higher GPAs than student smokers. And according to peer-reviewed published studies, when campuses go smoke-free, the number of student smokers dramatically decreases, and students who continue to smoke consume fewer cigarettes.
Also, 29 states in the U.S. allow companies to not hire job candidates simply because they smoke. This may mean that there are CCU graduates who smoke and return to their home state or other states only to find they cannot find a job because they are smokers. The world is progressively becoming more smoke-free, and CCU aims to help prepare students manage this transition.
Smoking also takes its toll on the CCU environment. Cigarette butts are the most littered item in the world. This is also true of campuses where smoking is allowed. Animals on campus are also at risk of ingesting butts, and it takes a substantial amount of personnel to keep the campus clean and welcoming.
“There were 206 cigarette butts picked up at the Kearns Hall parking lot, and 326 more picked up at the smoking gazebo next to Wheelwright Auditorium,” says John Barr, a crew leader with the grounds department, after a routine monthly clean up of just a portion of the grounds. “That’s almost two-and-a-half cartons of cigarettes.”
“Nonsmokers don’t like breathing in smoke as they walk past gazebos filled with smokers,” says Cross. “And they don’t like seeing the byproducts of smoking.”
In general, smoking has a negative economic impact on businesses and organizations, including universities. Employee absenteeism is higher among smokers. Individual health insurance premiums are higher, and hazard insurance is between $11-21 higher for each worker who smokes.
The overall healthcare costs caused by smoking and secondhand smoke are staggering. A health insurance premium for smokers in South Carolina is $4 per month more for an individual and that premium climbs to $60 per month for a spouse or dependent who smokes.
“CCU is doing it the right way, encouraging smokers to quit by offering programs to do it in a healthy way,” says Cross. “Quitting smoking was the most liberating thing I’ve ever done. Cigarettes have no hold over me anymore, and I don’t have to cater my life around trying to find a place to smoke anymore.”