Woodland Community College Site Council, with the assistance of the Yolo County Health Department, will make tobacco education part of WCC Welcome Week during the Spring 2007 Semester to publicize WCC’s no-tobacco policy and provide health information and resources for quitting for the campus community, said WCC English Professor Cay Strode.
“18 to 24 year olds are the only age group where the amount of smokers are growing,” said Steven Jensen, Health Program Coordinator for the Yolo County Health Department Tobacco Education and Cessation Program.
According to Jensen, who is also a Woodland Community College adjunct instructor, this trend is increasing because big tobacco is targeting college students at bars and events and is even providing free samples. “Tobacco is the leading cause of death in the United States,” Jensen said. “We want to counter the pro-tobacco influence.”
Strode, who is also a WCC Site Council member, said that the purpose of the tobacco education component of WCC’s Welcome Week will not be to scold smokers or make them feel bad. She said the Site Council is stressing a compassionate approach to smokers.
“We’d like to emphasize the resources that are out there for quitting and emphasize our pride in WCC’s smoke-free environment.”
Woodland Community College implemented a 100 percent tobacco-free policy on August 18, 2003. Tobacco of any form is prohibited anywhere on campus, including parking lots.
Prior to the policy change, Jensen formed a student coalition. The student’s’ main concern was exposure to second-hand smoke in student areas. The student coalition then became active in discovering the campus concerns regarding second-hand smoke exposure and possible designated smoking areas.
According to Jensen, the students hosted a “Great Butt Hunt,” where students won prizes for filling cups full of cigarette butts. Jensen said it was shocking to find out that even though the WCC groundskeeper collected cigarette butts daily, in a period of two hours, the students had collected enough cigarette butts to fill a gallon jar.
The student coalition approached the WCC Site Council and proposed designated smoking areas on campus. The Site Council decided to push for a 100 percent tobacco-free campus, and by the following August, the YCCD Board of Trustees had unanimously voted in favor of prohibiting tobacco on all WCC grounds.
In January 2004, Assembly Bill 846 amended California Government Code Sections 7596-7598, prohibiting smoking within 20 feet of main entrances, exits, and windows of all public buildings, including the buildings on college campuses. According to Section 7596(a), public buildings are defined as “…a building owned and occupied, or leased and occupied, by the state, a county, a city, a city and county, or a California community college district.”
WCC is one of several colleges across the state and country enforcing tobacco-free policies. The California Youth Advocacy Network, an organization committed to changing tobacco use culture in California, lists over 36 California college campuses that have restrictive tobacco policies. According to the American Nonsmokers’ Rights Foundations, by October 2006, over 35 campuses will have 100 percent smoke-free policies across the country, and over 200 campuses nationwide have smoking in designated areas only.
Woodland Community College’s Welcome Week tobacco education events are currently in the planning stages, but Jensen plans to have “an array of activities,” including games, interactive activities, prizes, a great chance to learn about second-hand smoke and tobacco in general, as well as health effects of smoking and how tobacco companies target college students.
Welcome Week will feature a 20-foot mobile classroom with educational activities, posters and information from the Tobacco Prevention Program.
According to Strode, the exhibit will include a display case in the 100 building with information about WCC’s no-tobacco policy, as well as a table in the student lounge with health information and resources for smokers who want to quit.