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Friday, May 20, 2011

Howard Community College To Ban Smoking On Campus

Charles Higgins is a first-year journalism student at Howard Community College. He's also a smoker who, in a couple of weeks, won't be able to have a cigarette in between classes, at least not on campus.

Starting May 31, HCC will be an entirely smoke- and cigarettes-free campus.

Howard Community College

The smoking cigarettes ban, imposed by HCC's Board of Trustees, came after a survey found that an overwhelming number of students and staff favored a smoke-free campus.

Llatetra Brown, director of student life and co-chairwoman of the non-smoking cigarettes committee, said a 2011 survey found that 78.5 percent of students and 87.7 percent of faculty and staff responded positively to the question of whether the campus should be smoke-free or not.

"There's only a small cross-section of students that smoke, from what I can see," said Ken McGlynn, director of security services and co-chairman of the committee. "It's rare to see smokers smoking cigarettes as freely as they used to, anyway."

Other smoke-free campuses in the state include Frederick Community College, Carroll Community College, Montgomery Community College, Chesapeake College, Salisbury University and Towson University.

The non-smoking cigarettes committee, which coordinated and implemented the ban, was convened by HCC President Kathleen Hetherington after she deemed the survey numbers sufficient to pursue going smoke-free, Brown said.

The committee consisted of smokers and non-smokers, and students, faculty and staff.

Basmah Nada, 17, of Ellicott City, was one of the student members. A non-smoker and second-year business administration student, Nada said that, to her surprise, there hasn't been much negative reaction to the ban.

"(The ban) was probably going to come sooner or later," she said. "I have friends who smoke, and we give them a hard time, saying, 'You can only do that till May 31,' and they shrug it off and say they'll deal with it then."

The first day of the ban, May 31, is also the first day of summer classes.

McGlynn said initially, there will be a transitional phase, its length not yet determined, during which security officers would issue only warnings, not fines.

"It's a matter of education during the initiation process," he said.

Second offenses can result in a $50 fine, McGlynn said, if the smoker is "defiant," and then it becomes a violation of the student code of conduct.

With faculty and staff, it can become a human resources issue, he said.

"It can be on your evaluation, since it's a violation of company policy," he said. "You could be brought up on disciplinary charges, and it can become a performance issue."

The ban, McGlynn said, is not meant to generate revenue.

"We're not here to make money," he said. "We're here to make a better campus. We don't want to be the smoking cigarettes police."

Higgins, 32, of Wilde Lake, found a certain irony in that.

"The funny thing is, the security guards giving these citations are smokers themselves," he said.

McGlynn said history has shown that after awhile, people take smoking cigarettes bans for granted.

"People were upset when smoking cigarettes was first banned in restaurants, but they don't even think about it now," he said. "I'm hoping that's how it will go here."

Higgins, who said he is trying to quit smoking cigarettes, said that if he is still a smoker when the ban takes effect, he'll honor the policy. But he's not sure if all smokers will.

"I understand the school's position, and I'm not slighted by it," he said. "But I think it'll be a difficult thing to push. There's going to be smoking cigarettes on campus, but in areas that aren't traveled as much.

"I think my habit is disgusting, I know it," said Higgins, who said he's been smoking cigarettes on and off since he was 15 years old. "I'm worried for my health, considering how long I've been smoking cigarettes."

Brown said the college is offering smoking cigarettes cessation classes for its smokers, because it understands the challenges of quitting the habit.

"There are obvious benefits to your health and wellness, which is what we as a community are trying to express," Brown said. "That is the main emphasis: We want this to be a healthy community and a healthy college."

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