East Central College trustees approved a tobacco-free campus policy at their Dec. 5 meeting. The policy will go into effect Jan. 1, 2013.

“As an educational institution, we have an obligation to lead the way in matters of health awareness and education,” said Ina “Cookie” Hays, vice president of student development. “We are committed to providing our students, employees and visitors with a safe and healthy environment.”

The current policy was adopted May 6, 1991, and revised June 23, 2003. It says, “There will be no smoking inside buildings on the East Central College Campus or in off-campus facilities.”

A revision “Smoking outside of buildings on the East Central College campus is permitted only in designated areas,” was implemented Aug. 25, 2008, after the campus purchased three outdoor smoking shelters that cost between $7,000 and $8,000.

The request for the smoke-free policy was made on behalf of the college’s AQIP (Academic Quality Improvement Process) Action Project Committee.

“The reason this started as a discussion was because of students, faculty and staff complaints about second-hand smoke on campus as well as littering issues on campus,” Task Force Chairman and student activities director Brad Bruns told board members.

Bruns said there are several institutions across the United States that have implemented tobacco-free policies on campus.

“Although I think we’re the first institution to try it as an AQIP project under the category ‘valuing people,’ ” Bruns said.

The new language states that usage of all tobacco products will be prohibited on all properties owned or leased by the college including facilities, buildings, parking lots, athletic fields and common areas.

The term “tobacco products” includes eCigarettes, hookah and such other smoking-related substances and products the college chooses to prohibit.

The policy applies to all faculty, staff, students, employees, contractors, performers and visitors.

Students Back Policy

A task force has been meeting since August to develop a process and time line for implementation.

The Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society and Student Government Association have adopted the project as one of their goals and will help present the plan to students and address their concerns.

“Becoming a tobacco-free campus is a worthy goal, but we must consider the needs of all of our constituents. Therefore, the policy will be applied gradually to give tobacco users time to adjust,” a memo to College President Dr. Ed Jackson from Hays noted.

It also said that an informational campaign will be conducted and tobacco cessation programs offered.

Hays and Bruns attended training at the University of Missouri-Columbia on the best way to become a tobacco-free campus.

“We would be taking steps to help smokers stop smoking as well as to help educate them as to the reasons why it’s important to do this. Not only is it best for everyone’s health, there’s a cost factor — it costs a lot to maintain a campus with smokers, and it’s just the right thing to do,” Hays said.

Hays added that smokers have a right to be heard, which is part of the reason the policy will be implemented slowly.

“We need to get the word out as to why we’re doing it, offer cessation workshops and address the concerns of smokers,” she said.

Officials said the college attorney has looked over and approved the language of the policy.

Enforcement policies will come at a later date.