Portland State will implement its new smoking policy March 30. This policy may not seem too different on paper, but in the Park Blocks it should be a breath of fresh air. Gwyn Ashcom, chair of the Tobacco Policy Committee (a sub-committee of the Portland State Safety Committee) and outreach coordinator for the Center for Student Health and Counseling, led the way in drafting the detailed proposal.
Portland State will implement its new smoking policy March 30. This policy may not seem too different on paper, but in the Park Blocks it should be a breath of fresh air.
Gwyn Ashcom, chair of the Tobacco Policy Committee (a sub-committee of the Portland State Safety Committee) and outreach coordinator for the Center for Student Health and Counseling, led the way in drafting the detailed proposal.
It involved a long process of surveying individuals at the university, as well as researching common restriction policies at other institutions.
“We really wanted to make this process as transparent and democratic as possible,” Ashcom said. “We wanted to involve the entire community … it took quite a bit of time.”
The survey was sent out campus-wide in 2006, and garnered a big response. Approximately 70 percent of returned surveys were from students, with the rest from faculty and staff.
Also covered were issues such as secondhand smoke, and whether or not PSU should become completely smoke free.
The new policy is does not ban smoking, but does restrict the areas on campus in which individuals can smoke. The policy requires smoking to take place at least 25 feet from doorways, open-air intakes, vents and operable windows. This policy may prove difficult to enforce in downtown Portland.
“Being an urban institution we obviously have city streets that run through the campus, as well as the city-owned Park Blocks,” Ashcom said. “So there are areas we don’t have control over.”
The increased distance requirement makes PSU eligible for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) status, an environmental building rating system, which will aid in the university’s already green-friendly reputation.
As part of the distance rule, the committee decided that the walkways between buildings should be no exception. Areas such as the sky bridges between the Smith Memorial Student Union and Cramer Hall have been popular for a quick smoke, and also cause for student complaints.
“That was one of the big areas that came up during the course of the study,” Ashcom Said. “It creates a lot of smoke that can easily enter the buildings.”
Many complaints from the committee’s survey were also aimed at the area in front of the Millar Library, a common rain-free haven for smokers.
As for enforcement of these changes, the responsibility has been handed off to the Community Outreach Officers from Campus Public Safety. These officers will be handing out information cards about the policies and designated smoking areas in hopes to “encourage compliance.”
“It’s really protecting the people who choose not to smoke from smoke exposure. It’s not to punish smokers in any way. That’s not the way we approached this,” Ashcom said.
The policy has also officially banned the advertising and sale of tobacco products on campus. Ashcom found during her research last year that Portland State was the last state school in Oregon to still have tobacco sold on campus.
“It wasn’t something that was advertised at the time. You had to really know it was there,” she said.
Further down the road, the opening of the new Recreation Center will coincide with the Urban Plaza becoming a smoke-free zone. This policy will be implemented in January of 2010 and is intended to give the image of a health-minded place for students to be comfortable outside.
“Students [feel] there is no outdoor space that is free of smoke of all kinds,” Ashcom said. “It just makes sense to have that open area be smoke free.”
Becoming completely smoke free may be out of the question given Portland State’s urban setting, but the Urban Plaza’s cessation plan will serve as a trial run, and the committee plans to conduct further studies after the policy takes effect.
For students interested in reading the complete policy or contacting the Tobacco Policy Committee, more information can be found at the PSU Safety Committee’s Web site: www.safetycommittee.pdx.edu.