The Seventh Commitment of Berea College is “to encourage in all community members a way of life characterized by mindful and sustainable living, health and wellness…high personal standards, and a concern for the welfare of others.” Honoring that commitment, Berea College will soon be joining other Kentucky colleges and universities by becoming a tobacco-free campus. The policy is straightforward: starting July 1, use of tobacco and vaping products will no longer be permitted on any College property.
The new policy was debated and approved by the General Faculty Assembly last year:
“Tobacco Products” means all forms of tobacco, including, but not limited to, cigarettes, cigars, pipes, water pipes (hookah), bidis, electronic nicotine delivery systems, electronic non-nicotine delivery systems, smokeless tobacco products, and any product that produces smoke or vape. “Tobacco products” do not include any cessation product specifically approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for use in treating nicotine or tobacco dependence.
No one could seriously argue that tobacco-use or vaping are healthy activities, so this new policy not only aligns with the Great Commitments, but also represents concern for the health and wellness of our community members.
There is also an important social justice aspect to the new policy. Big Tobacco and vaping companies target the young and economically disadvantaged, the same lives Berea College is dedicated to improving through educational opportunity. Should Berea College be complicit with those cynical and predatory enterprises? Again, who could make a serious argument in favor of that?
Hopefully the new policy will lead some members of our community to reduce or eliminate their use of tobacco products. As a former smoker myself, though, I understand that it is really hard to quit, so it may be more realistic to just hope that the new policy reduces the number of students who begin smoking at Berea. (Like many others, that’s when I started smoking, in my first year at College, and I was not able to quit until three years after I graduated.) For those who do want to quit, free smoking cessation assistance is available through our Wellness program.
At the same time, we are not unaware of the social aspects of smoking. The smoking gazebos have over the years become popular for hanging out or socializing. Occasionally, while walking my dog in the evenings, we stop at the gazebos. Even though we are not smoking, we are usually warmly welcomed. And that seems to be typical of “gazebo culture.” Not everyone is smoking—I suppose it would be more accurate to say that not everyone is smoking their own cigarette (everyone else is smoking “second hand”)—and there is a lot of interaction occurring. That sort of gathering is a very positive thing—it reduces social isolation and builds community. So the gazebos will remain temporarily as locations for (healthier) socializing while we develop other places where students can casually congregate–picnic tables, benches, swing sets– places to gather and blow off steam instead of smoke.
My sincerest hope is that through these measures, all of our beloved community can live healthier, happier lives.
CORRECTION: An earlier version of this post lacked the word “temporarily” in reference to the gazebos remaining on campus.