In one year, the only smoke you’ll see on the UTC campus will be car exhaust or school-sponsored bonfires. Cigarettes and other items that produce smoke will be banned.
On Jan. 1, 2019, the UTC campus is going smoke-free, which means no cigarettes, cigars, pipes or vaping equipment. Chewing and similar types of smokeless tobacco will not be affected.
Officials in charge of the smoke-free push insist it’s not a face slap to shame or punish smokers. “This isn’t about how the university doesn’t want smokers on campus. This is for the health of the campus and trying to create a healthier environment,” says Carol Oglesby, assistant director of Health Education and Wellness Promotion and co-chair of the drive, titled Smoke-Free UTC.
UTC is the first school in the UT System to start a drive to a smoke-free campus, and the others are watching.
“I think it’s going to go smoothly. The thing is, we’re preparing to give people a year to adjust,” Oglesby says.
Over the next 12 months, Smoke-Free UTC will provide enough information, education and support to make the transition relatively painless, she says. There will be seminars, workshops, campus-wide emails and other events to fully explain the smoke-free program and how it will work.
There will be smoking cessation programs, support groups and counseling help, she adds. There also will be time to reach out to medical personnel if someone needs pharmaceutical help to quit smoking.
UTC doesn’t have a large population of smokers in the first place, statistics show. According to surveys of students, faculty and staff, only about 7 percent of the campus community are regular smokers.
A far greater majority of students — 93 percent — are concerned about the effects of secondhand smoke, the surveys show.
Marisa Colston, co-chair of the smoke-free drive and professor, Graduate Athletic Training, says “communication is the big one” when it comes to hurdles that must be crossed before the new policy kicks in. “We want to prevent instances that may occur with people not following the policy,” Colston says.
How to enforce new smoke-free rules is another issue, she says, and it includes giving students, faculty and staff some guidelines. There may be questions such as: “If I see someone violating the policy, what do I do? What do I say to them?” she explains.
At its heart, though, the process must be “kind, understanding, patient and persistent,” she says.
Now universally accepted that not smoking leads to a healthier lifestyle, the university’s Smoke-Free UTC effort promises to be an interesting undertaking in 2018.