May 2007, Volume 8, Number 5
Member Spotlight: Ozarks Technical Community College Tobacco-Free Campus Initiative
Ozarks Technical Community College
In August 2003 Ozarks Technical Community College in Springfield, Missouri, became one of the first higher education institutions in the United States to implement a completely tobacco-free campus policy. The reasons given to the Board of Trustees to justify the policy were failure of tobacco users to utilize proscribed smoking areas; denigration of the campus with tobacco refuse; tacit approval of underage high school juniors and seniors attending vocational programs on campus to use tobacco; and the desire to create a healthy learning environment. It is important to note we did not use influencing people to quit using tobacco as a rationale for adopting the policy. Rather we identified cessation as an added benefit.
Our Board of Trustees had the vision to adopt the policy in December 1999 to be put into effect August 1, 2003. The three plus years between adoption and implementation were crucial to the ultimate success of the program according to Ty Patterson, Vice President of Student Services, who led the implementation process. “By having time to educate our faculty, staff, and students, we were able to address the overt as well as passive-aggressive resistances,” said Patterson. He adds, “Time also created a sense of inevitability.”
Another key to the success of the implementation was minimizing the often-raised issue of enforcement. According to Patterson, “We simply took enforcement off the table by deciding not to penalize those for failure to comply!” In fact, in the first 14 months, no citations were issued for noncompliance. Instead, the focus was placed on educating, treating people with respect, and seeking compliance. In October 2004, after the fall term was well under way, safety and security officers began issuing citations—$15 fine or two hours of labor picking up refuse—but only if the offender had been warned by that officer. Since October 2004, only 51 citations have been issued, and only one person chose the labor.
Also in 2004, OTC established The Center of Excellence for Tobacco-Free Campus Policy to conduct research, share best practices, and provide assistance to other institutions or organizations interested in developing and implementing tobacco-free policies. Ty Patterson serves as director of the center in addition to his other duties. The center hosted its 4th Annual “Making Your Campus Tobacco-Free Workshop” last month in Springfield. Over the three plus years of its existence, the center has assisted faculty, staff, and students in higher education and medical institutions in Arkansas, California, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Missouri, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, South Carolina, and Wisconsin.
For more information about The Center of Excellence for Tobacco-Free Campus Policy at Ozarks Technical Community College, please visit http://www.otc.edu/about/tobaccofree.php.
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