Butt out! PSU goes cold turkey, bans smoking in 2015

Portland State will join the growing number of smoke and tobacco-free campuses with its own expanded policy, which goes into effect on Sept. 15, 2015.

The new policy prohibits the use of all smoking and tobacco products on campus property and the South Park Blocks between Southwest Market Street and Southwest Jackson Street, according to the official policy document. The full policy is available through the Student Health and Counseling website, including a map of affected areas and an FAQ section.

“This is a good, strong policy and is very much in line with best practices,” said Alex Accetta, the director of Campus Recreation and a key player in the process. “When people have asthma, when people have kids, when people are allergic to smoke, our responsibility is to create a space that’s as safe as it can be.”

PSU’s policy prohibits the use of all tobacco products, including but not limited to cigarettes, cigars, smokeless tobacco, chewing tobacco and electronic cigarettes. The prohibition of smokeless products such as chewing tobacco and of e-cigarettes or vaporizers makes it among the stricter of campus policies, in comparison to those that only address cigarette smoking.

The policy is a culmination of an almost decade-long process that included two campus-wide surveys, implementation of PSU’s current smoking policy, the Clean Air Corridor and ongoing collaboration between stakeholders.

“It is definitely a community policy that a lot of people had a hand in,” said Julie Weissbuch Allina, the director of health promotion at SHAC.

SHAC and Campus Recreation have been among the primary players, according to Weissbuch Allina, with the Healthy Campus Initiative Committee, Human Resources, the University Policy Committee and others.

General student, faculty and staff input were sought through a 2012 survey spearheaded by Gwyn Ashcom, a health educator at SHAC. Of the 4,005 respondents, two-thirds reported concern about environmental tobacco smoke and over 55 percent supported PSU becoming smoke free.

SHAC will be primarily responsible for overseeing the policy going forward. No designated smoking areas are included in the policy. If people choose to smoke, they will need to go off campus to do so.

The expectation is that smokers will largely comply with the policy and the emphasis will be on education, according to both Accetta and Weissbuch Allina.

“For the most part, what we’ve observed is smokers have been really awesome to work with,” Accetta said. “We’re not asking people to stop smoking. We’re just asking people to take care of their fellow students and the PSU community by not doing it while they’re here. That’s all.”

The Campus Public Safety Office will regulate ongoing smoking violations in particular areas.

“We will enforce it like any other policy within the university,” said CPSO Lieutenant of Operations Craig Whitten. Students who violate the policy can be referred to Student Conduct and faculty and staff to Human Resources.

“When I’m not in uniform and I see people smoking,” Whitten said, “I just walk up to them and pleasantly say, ‘Hey, are you aware this is a smoke-free corridor, and there’s no smoking here?’ and pretty much leave it at that.” This is not something to argue or be confrontational about, he added.

Weissbuch Allina said an educational campaign regarding the policy will likely launch in January, assuming all the expected pieces go through. Posters, emails, social media, a dedicated website and a town hall meeting are just some of the ways SHAC may go about communicating the policy.

As of Oct. 1, 975 campuses across the nation are fully tobacco free, according to the National Tobacco-Free Campus movement. Many Oregon universities have already enacted such policies, including the Oregon Health & Sciences University in 2007 and the University of Oregon in 2012. Portland Community College and Oregon State University are smoke free, though they have not prohibited all tobacco products.