The Tobacco-Free Policy was approved by the college’s Board of Trustees at its August 2015 meeting on the Decatur campus.
ECCC will join 10 other community colleges in the state of Mississippi in adopting either a smoke-free or tobacco-free campus policy. Smoking has been prohibited in buildings on the East Central campus since 1996.
East Central’s Tobacco-Free Policy will prohibit all tobacco products, including smoke-emanating (or electronic) and smokeless products, on all campuses, including buildings, housing, community areas, parking lots, outdoor athletics venues, privately-owned vehicles while on campus, and college owned vehicles, regardless of location. The policy applies to all students, faculty, and staff, and those visiting or conducting business on the ECCC main campus or other college site.
The policy is a result of the college’s 2020 Vision strategic plan, which was adopted in 2013 after input from students, employees, and members of the communities that the college serves.
“One of the action plans to fulfill our vision for the future is to promote student and employee wellness initiatives, services, and resources that will create a campus culture of health and wellness,” said ECCC President Dr. Billy Stewart. “There are obvious health risks associated with those who smoke and use tobacco products, but also those who are exposed to second-hand smoke. This policy will help us to provide a healthier learning environment not only for our students and employees, but our campus visitors.”
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that cigarette smoking is the leading cause of preventable death in the United States, causing more than 480,000 deaths each year, with 42,000 of those from second-hand smoke exposure. More than 16 million people in the United States alone are currently living with a disease caused by smoking, according to the CDC.
The process to adoption of the ECCC Tobacco-Free Policy began in February 2015 when the college received a $5,000 grant from the Washington D.C.-based American Legacy Foundation—now known as Truth Initiative—to fund the initiative, including pre-policy assessments and surveys, education programs, cessation information, and other communication initiatives. Truth Initiative is the nation’s largest non-profit public health organization dedicated to making tobacco use a thing of the past.
The college’s annual Survey of Campus Climate administered in April was used to gather input from faculty, staff, and students regarding tobacco use and a tobacco-free campus. The majority of those responding strongly supported the establishment of a tobacco-free campus at East Central Community College.
“Based on the results of that survey, our own research on the dangers of tobacco use, and a look at similar policies at other colleges and universities, the decision was made to move forward with adoption of the Tobacco-Free Policy and seek board approval,” explained Stewart.
East Central’s Vice President for Instruction Dr. Teresa Houston is leading a Tobacco-Free Ad-Hoc Committee on campus that has been managing development and implementation of the initiative. Those efforts have included development of the policy, assessment of tobacco-related issues on campus, encouraging feedback from the campus community, developing plans for tobacco education and cessation efforts, and identifying strategies to encourage an overall culture of wellness on and off campus.
The fall semester is being devoted to making faculty, staff, and students and local communities aware of the new Tobacco-Free Policy, providing education on the health issues associated with tobacco use, and offering tobacco cessation information. Among the activities planned include professional development opportunities led by wellness and tobacco-use experts, participation in the Great American Smokeout in November, and smokers’ anonymous meetings.
Stewart said that other initiatives are being considered or are underway to provide a safe and healthy learning environment, including healthier menu options in the cafeteria, future expansion of the college’s fitness facility, and a full-time wellness coordinator, among other efforts.
“Having a tobacco-free campus is just one part of achieving our overall goal to create a campus culture of health and wellness,” stressed Stewart. “As a college, we will continually look for additional ways we can provide the healthiest campus environment possible as well as wellness opportunities and education for both our campus community and those who visit.”