There are still a number of steps to be worked out before a no-tobacco policy goes into effect at Sampson Community College, which is expected to be for the fall semester, the college’s president said in the wake of a split vote for approval last week.
In a 5-3 vote at its July 14 meeting, the Sampson Community College Board of Trustees sided in favor of making the college campus a tobacco-free one following a lengthy discussion, but noted at the time that the logistics regarding the campus’ transition were still to be hashed out.
That transition is anticipated to include a public information campaign for students and others, as well as signage in and around campus making all visitors aware of the new policy. The smoke-free designation will also be accompanied by an effort by the college to help others quit smoking.
“Next steps include putting up signage on the campus, implementing an information program and offering cessation classes,” Dr. Paul Hutchins, president of Sampson Community College, stated following the meeting. “The policy goes into effect with the fall semester.”
Although the motion did pass at last week’s meeting, those steps toward implementation remain, to include identifying possible areas where smoking might be permitted around campus.
Chick Gancer, chair of the Sampson County Partners for Healthy Carolinians, the volunteer non-profit group who represents various health organizations throughout the county, sat in on the vote with another Healthy Carolinians member.
“Although it did pass,” Gancer said, “the fine-tuning of it is not in place. I can see there is going to be a lot more work on it and it will eventually come to pass — like it did in the high schools years ago when we were campaigning for that too. But that is high school.”
It is a different ballgame when dealing with a college, Gancer noted.
Some concerns during the trustees’ discussion were that the student population is older and in some cases more blue-collar, so there is an increased sensitivity to an issue such as smoking. Compounding that, Sampson also has an agricultural background steeped in the growing of tobacco, a point often broached in any talks concerning a transition to smoke-free status. Similar smoke-free moves have been made in recent years by Sampson County and Sampson Regional Medical Center.
Up until now, Sampson Community College has been in the minority in not having a smoke-free designation, according to Gancer. Even now that the step has been taken, there is still a long road ahead, something Hutchins concedes.
“If it was passed, they didn’t have a policy to tell the students where they could go for smoking,” Gancer noted. “There was a considerable amount of discussion as to where and what to do for the people who are denied smoking. They weren’t ready to designate that. There is going to be more on this.”
A smoke-free environment and cessation programs such as the one SCC aims to implement would help a state that, according to State of Tobacco Control and the American Lung Association, is failing in that respect. According to state grades available at stateoftobaccocontrol.org for 2015, North Carolina received Fs across the board in tobacco prevention, smoke-free air, tobacco taxes and access to cessation services.
Reach staff writer Chris Berendt at 910-249-4616. Follow the paper on twitter @SampsonInd and like us on Facebook.