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PCC going smoke-free in 2018-19

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Tawanda Bullock smokes a cigarette under a kiosk at Pitt Community College Wednesday evening.

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By Ginger Livingston
The Daily Reflector

Thursday, December 14, 2017

WINTERVILLE — Pitt Community College will be a smoke-free campus starting August 2018, The Board of Trustees decided Tuesday.

The board voted 12-1 with one abstention to adopt the new policy, which will ban cigarettes, e-cigarettes and other smoking products from all campus buildings, facilities or property “owned, leased or operated by Pitt Community College.”

Smoking in vehicles owned by the college also is prohibited.

Currently, Pitt is among the 14 North Carolina Community College campuses that has a partial smoke-free policy, restricting smoking to designated outdoor areas. Among the other community colleges, 42 have tobacco-free campuses, Forsyth Technical Community College is currently the only school with a smoke-free campus and Robeson Community College is the only school with no smoking regulations.

“We are a little behind the times here so we think it’s time to catch up,” said Amelia Martin, PCC Student Support manager and chairwoman of the task force that developed the policy.

The college has worked to eliminate smoking on campus since 2010, President Dennis Massey said. It started with prohibiting smoking within 25 feet of a building entrance. That had limited, success, he said. The school then established sheltered designating smoking areas.

Along the way, the school surveyed students, faculty and staff about their attitudes toward a smoke-free environment. Out of the 900 students who responded, nearly 61 percent favored implementing a smoke-free policy, short of the 75 percent approval sought by a task force exploring the issue.

However, 74 percent of faculty and staff favored the policy.

“Even though we want this for the health of our whole student body, we know it will be difficult for some students,” Martin said. Conversation is already underway with Pitt County Public Health to offer cession classes to students and faculty.

Trustee Brian Floyd, president of Vidant Health Medical Center, offered the assistance of his organization in the establishment of smoking cessation programs.

Vidant implemented its smoke-free tobacco policy about a decade ago, he said.

Trustee Tyree Walker, a retired executive from Vidant Health Medical Center, asked about enforcement.

Martin said faculty and staff will receive training on enforcing the policy. The school wants to take an educational approach, but a repeat offender will be referred to the office of student development.

“I think it will be a cultural change that will occur over time,” Martin said.

Vidant struggled when it implemented its smoke-free policies, Floyd said. There were unexpected issues with staff and patients smoking on city-owned sidewalks and neighboring property.There also has to be equality in enforcement, he said.

“This thing gets personal very quickly,” Floyd said.

However, the policy has reduced the number of employees who smoke, which makes them and the community healthier, Floyd said. 

PCC is waiting to implement the program because it needs to educate students, faculty and staff and create signage, Martin said.

Trustee Kathy Frazier cast the lone no vote. She said the policy should have also banned smokeless tobacco products. Frazier said it was possible school personnel could face a situation where they have to order someone to stop smoking while allowing their companion to keep chewing tobacco Massey said the school is working towards a tobacco-free campus.

Newly appointed trustee Gary Evans abstained from voting. Evans is a vice president of Alliance One, an independent leaf tobacco merchant.

Other actions and discussions at Tuesday’s meeting included:

• The board unanimously approved a policy for appointing honoring trustees.

• The Eddie and Jo Allison Smith Family Foundation has agreed to give up to $2 million for PCC’s VISIONS Program Endowment if the school can raise $1 million by September 2019, said Susan Nobles, vice president of Institutional Advancement and executive director of the Pitt Community College Foundation.

VISIONS is a career development and mentoring program for at-risk high school students and first generation college students.

• Tabitha Miller, director of Title III grant, reported on the first year of projects undertaken through the program.

The college received a $2.2 million grant from the U.S. Department of Education’s Title III Strengthening Institutions program which helps college’s improve service to low-income students.

Fiscal year 2016-17 was the first year of the program, Miller said. Along with putting staffing in place, the first year’s activities included creating a orientation program to help new students and programming to reduce the number of students needing developmental education classes, Miller said. Tutoring programs also were expanded.

Nearly 400 students participated in a financial literacy program, she said, and more than 300 facility and staff members attended sessions of teaching strategies and guidance.

The grant continues through September 2021.

Contact Ginger Livingston at glivingston@reflector.com or 252-329-9570. Follow her on Twitter @GingerLGDR.

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