Suzanne Buchholz, Reporter
The policy for allowing smoking on the Pierce College campuses may change soon.
The potential to change the smoking policy has been discussed for several years, and it was recently decided to take it to a new level, Pierce College Fort Steilacoom President Denise Yochum said.
The college is forming a task force through the District Cabinet Council to initiate a district-wide discussion on the topic, which will include employees and students.
“The district is concerned about the health of our students and employees,” Yochum said. “Additionally, we receive many complaints each year about the behaviors of some smokers outside of the smoking shelters and the lack of cleanliness around the shelters.”
If the new policy is put into effect, it’d prohibit the use of all forms of cigarettes and tobacco, including e-cigarettes and vapes.
The designated smoking shelters on campus would also be removed. Yochum said this would benefit the health of students and visitors to the campus, and help reduce the maintenance required to keep the campus clean.
The task force through the Cabinet has already begun working toward its goal of a smoke-free campus.
One of its first steps was to email a brief survey to students through Survey Monkey, the company that Pierce uses for its surveys. The survey asked students 18 and older for their opinions on whether Pierce should prohibit smoking on campus.
Students had the choice of either agreeing or disagreeing with the new policy, or select the statement saying that it wouldn’t affect them either way.
College officials want to consider the opinions of the students who say they should be able to smoke on campus if they want and might not approve of this policy change.
Yochum said the survey will allow students to voice their concerns, and their suggestions will be taken into consideration as well.
“I’m sure there will be concerns from students and employees should the district make a decision to change our current policy,” Yochum said. “We would work with students and employees to address concerns if there is a policy change.”
Some questions and concerns that’ll be discussed will include topics on policies used by other community and technical colleges and whether they should be applied by Pierce.
For example, some colleges allow students to smoke if they’re in their own car while in the college’s parking lot, while others forbid the use of cigarettes and tobacco regardless of location on campus.
The discussion will determine if these policies should be upheld at Pierce as well and to what extent.
Other local community colleges, such as Green River College, created a policy several years ago to ban smoking on campus.
Some students thought the current situation for smoking on campus were acceptable, but would benefit from a few adjustments.
“I think the way it’s set up now is good, with the smoking shelters,” student Nathaniel Guerrero said. “Students who have that need or addiction (to smoke) can do it without having to leave the campus. One problem is people using the e-vapes, they just walk around the campus and smoke them instead of using the shelter.”
Other students said they didn’t think smoking should be allowed on the campus at all.
“Smoking in general isn’t good, and doing it on campus promotes that lifestyle,” student Sofiya Chekh said. “You come here to learn, and smoking drives away from that.”
Yochum said that, should the new policy be implemented, the effects it’ll have on students and faculty will be long-lasting and good for them.
“The long-term impact could include the ability to help students and employees have a positive impact on their long-term health and providing a campus that provides for smoke-free access to grounds and facilities for all,” Yochum said.
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