Please note: This was published over a year ago. Phone numbers, email addresses and other information may have changed.
A tobacco-free college
Photos and Story by Dana Haynes
Portland Community College isn’t the first to do it. And by all indications, it won’t be the last. But PCC is by far the largest institution of higher education in the state. So when the Board of Directors announced that PCC would become tobacco-free today Sept. 9, 2009, it was big news.
“This is something we have been working toward for a long time,” said District President Preston Pulliams. “Students have asked for this. Staff and faculty have asked for this. It was the right time to make PCC a healthier place.”
The new policy is in effect on all campuses, training centers and locations, both indoors and out. The decision followed a lengthy survey of staff, faculty and students and was presented to the PCC Board, which weighed the responses and the college’s mission to provide a healthy and safe environment for the entire community and anyone who visits PCC.
Helping lead the way in this effort was Marissa Johnson, PCC alumna and PCC Tobacco Free project coordinator. She has spent the summer tracking down the countless details necessary to make the big transition.
“The PCC tobacco-free policy is not about taking the right to smoke away from someone, it’s about ensuring access to education for all,” Johnson said. “My job gives me the opportunity to help make PCC an even more welcoming, healthful and environmentally responsible place, and that feels good.”
Last school year, PCC had banned smoking everywhere except designated areas. For the 2009-10 school year, the college has provided more than a year’s notice regarding the new policy to students, staff, visitors, vendors and outside contractors doing work at the college. An Employee Assistance Program is available for college employees and their dependents.
No Butts About It
Several PCC campuses kicked off the new policy by holding events called “No Butts About It,” in which volunteers policed the ground picking up cigarette butts and other garbage.
“I’m here to support the mission. It’s an important initiative,” said Jenn Piper, supervisor of facilities for sports and athletics at the Sylvania Campus.
“It’s something good for the environment,” said student Cyril Lesniak. “I’m kind of happy that the college has this policy. It’s nice.”
The state of Oregon has been active in helping Oregonians to quit smoking. Statistics generated by the Tobacco Prevention and Education Program indicate that 80 percent of current adult smokers would like to quit smoking.
“We’re thrilled that the PCC Board of Directors took this leap forward,” said Dr. Mel Kohn, director of the state Public Health Division. “If an organization as big as PCC, with its 86,000 students, can do this, it will spur other organizations in the state to do the same. A tobacco-free campus is just a healthier place to learn and to work.”
Resources for those who wish to quit, as well as links to the tobacco policy, can be found at www.pcc.edu/tobaccofree
“We want to educate everyone who comes to our campuses in a way that is inclusive and provides plenty of information to help them adhere to the new policy and see that it benefits everyone,” President Pulliams said.