News Details

April 21, 2016

Wesleyan to Enact Tobacco-Free Campus Policy

West Virginia Wesleyan College will join the short ranks of West Virginia institutions of higher education that identify as a tobacco-free campus.  The WVWC Tobacco-Free Policy, which outlines a graduated timeline for the program, will ensure that the entire Buckhannon campus, including administrative buildings, residence halls, grounds, parking lots, on-campus sidewalks, streets, driveways, stadiums, recreational spaces, practice facilities, and all Wesleyan-owned or –leased vehicles, will be devoid of smoking tobacco, nicotine, vapor pens, and smokeless tobacco in January 2017.

According to the American Lung Association, tobacco-free policies are a growing trend on college campuses across the United States.  Today there are approximately 474 colleges and universities that are 100% tobacco-free.  West Virginia currently has four campuses that are tobacco-free: West Liberty University, West Virginia Northern Community College, West Virginia School of Osteopathic Medicine, and West Virginia University Health Science campus.

The Tobacco-Free Policy stemmed from a faculty-led coalition that then-freshman Kayla Hinkley of Hurricane, WV joined.  The coalition became more student-led, and Hinkley, now a senior who will receive both her undergraduate degree in International Business and her Master’s in Business Administration on May 7, continued to work on the initiative through her senior year. She met Clayton Porter, a junior nursing major from Morgantown, WV, who was serving as Health Chair of Wesleyan’s Student Senate, who also joined the cause. 

Hinkley and Porter, together with fourteen other campus community members, fine-tuned the policy over the course of the year until it finally went before the Executive Student Senate, General Student Senate, and the President’s Cabinet.  Surveys of the campus community were conducted and qualitative research was compiled concerning the number of smokers and popular smoking locations on campus, as well as the types of tobacco used.

“I am very proud of our students who have worked diligently, conducting substantive research, distributing and assessing surveys, and leading discussions so that they could present their findings and recommendations to our administrative team,” stated President Pamela Balch ’71. 

The policy calls for a graduated program where the campus will utilize four tobacco-use zones for the fall semester and then fully become tobacco-free in January.  In the meantime, faculty, staff, and nursing students will begin training to present voluntary cessation classes to those members of the campus community whom are interested in kicking the habit.  Resident Assistants of each residence hall will be advised on the policy during their summer training sessions, and it will be officially announced during the faculty and staff meeting in August.

“We wanted to look at this from the health benefits,” Porter stated.  “We decided on the graduated process because of the cessation options.  We wanted those faculty, staff, and students who were interested in cessation options to have the opportunity to take part in those programs before the policy is fully enacted.  We believe it is the best option for the entire campus community.”

“We always want what is best for our students and personnel on campus and believe that moving toward a tobacco-free campus is a step in the right direction and certainly fits within our mission statement,” President Balch agreed.  “Their efforts to provide time for cessation support made us feel that the students truly want to impact people in a positive way.”

Where Porter has more of a professional tie to the policy’s mission with his nursing education, Hinkley has a more personal tie.  During her seventh grade year, Hinkley’s mother was diagnosed with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), a progressive disease that makes it hard to breathe.  Cigarette smoking is the leading cause of COPD, and long-term exposure to other lung irritants may also contribute to the disease.  She was urged to quit smoking before the effects would get the best of her.

 “I have a very personal tie to this initiative,” stated Hinkley.  “I have been working in tobacco-control fields since middle school, and I am now the coordinator of Students Working against Tobacco, or SWAT, on campus.  Tobacco use affects everyone on campus, whether or not you are a user yourself.

“The policy will be incredibly beneficial to the campus community,” she continued.  “Our community’s health is our number one concern, whether it is an eighteen-year-old freshman or a sixty-seven year old alum.  We want everyone to feel safe, and this policy allows those health issues to not be a concern.  The policy will also help to uphold the beauty of our campus.”

During the summer, campus administrators will work to ready the tobacco-use zones with receptacles and signage and prepare the cessation programs with the help of the Tobacco Control and Prevention College Grant from the American Lung Association, which awarded SWAT $4,000 for these types of concessions.

“It is important that people realize that this is not an attack on tobacco users, and it certainly is not to make anyone’s life more difficult,” said Hinkley.  “The graduated program and the tobacco cessation classes will actually make this process easier.  We care about each other on campus, and we want to take care of our fellow students.”

Hinkley also received the American Lung Association Breath of Life-Young Advocate Award in February 2015 to honor her efforts in fighting against Big Tobacco. 

For more information on the Tobacco-Free Policy, please contact Jessica Vincent, advisor of SWAT and head of cessation options, at Vincent_j@wvwc.edu.

Cutline: (L-R) Clayton Porter and Kayla Hinkley, advocates for a tobacco-free campus

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