Portland State University students and the Student Health Service marked the 15th annual “World No Tobacco Day” last Friday by creating chalk outlines outside of campus buildings to illustrate “smoke-free zones.”
These zones are designated by the Environmental Protection Agency to be at least 20 feet away from any building. In coordination with these actions, the Multnomah County Health Department also did some tabling to promote awareness of second-hand smoke policies.
“We want to celebrate the day and increase awareness, as well as assist smokers and non-smokers on where these smoke-free zones are,” said Julianne Ballard, a registered nurse with the service. “Currently, the PSU policy is 10 feet away from a building, but we’re hoping to bring that up to the EPA’s suggestion of 20. Also, a lot of people are never even aware of these policies in the first place.”
Ballard maintained that the establishment of these smoke-free zones are not meant to be punitive for smokers, but to have an understanding of where smoking is allowed and to reduce the effects of second-hand smoke. She also hoped that rain shelters for smoking with ash cans could be constructed outside the 20 feet area, something which she said that heath services was working on.
“The Student Health Service is also accessible for people who want to know about smoking,” Ballard said. “We also want all smokers to know if they want to quit, we are there for them.”
Student Health Service outreach coordinator Gwen Ashcom, also added, “The second-hand smoke issue needs to be more clearly defined, as there is no current enforcement of policies and people are not even sure what they are. Portland State also has the highest percentage of smokers out of the regional universities, and so we need to find clear spaces where the rights of both smokers and non-smokers are respected.”
Raheve Gray, of the Multnomah County Health Department, said the smoke-free zones are merely “a matter of common courtesy, and not a smokers versus non-smokers confrontation.”
Gray reiterated it was “a matter of education” and “people just need to be respectful at both ends.”
Their tabling was also important because, according to Gray, “those between the ages of 18 and 24 are the most targeted by tobacco companies, as after the controversy with Joe Camel, they could no longer target those under 18. So now they target campuses, sponsor ‘club nights’ where they distribute free merchandise which appeals to people of that age.”
Gray said smoking was still a personal decision. However, it’s fine if one makes that choice by themself, but when it becomes an act of manipulation, then there’s a problem.