Survey: Students Want Smoke-Free Campus

May 24, 2013

NMSU health officials polled students and staff and found support for a smoke-free campus as colleges across the United States consider the role smoking and tobacco should have on their campuses.

Randy Limon works for maintenance at NMSU. When I caught up with him, he was painting a hallway.

Randy told KRWG News he supports banning smoking on campus.
He quit smoking in January but started back around Easter. He receives two smoke breaks every day at work and said being allowed to smoke on campus has made it harder to quit.

Smoking has been on the mind of Lori McKee. She’s the executive director of NMSU’s Health and Wellness centers.

“Early in the year we decided from a health education perspective that we wanted to evaluate what the culture of NMSU kind of felt about a tobacco or smoke free environment,” said McKee.

Through the health education committee, the Campus Health Center sent out a petition to all students, staff and faculty.

The petition asked people to respond to this statement:
“I agree that NMSU should take steps to host a smoke-free environment.”

About 1100 people responded.
71 percent said yes, the university should take steps.
29 percent said no, steps should not be taken to be smoke-free.

More than half were students who responded. About a quarter were staff. The rest were faculty.

“I think all of us knows someone that does smoke. This initiative is looking at all tobacco products, not only smoking tobacco but oral and dipping tobacco also.”

One-third of college students smoke. That’s according to researchers at the Harvard School of Public Health.

NMSU is not alone in looking at the issue.

According to the American Nonsmoker’s Rights Foundation, 1,159 college campuses across the U.S. have a smoke-free policy.

Of those, 783 have a tobacco-free policy, which includes chewing and dipping tobacco.

Those numbers reflect policies enacted, not necessarily those in effect right now.

The petition results were released right as Mary Kay Papen, Joseph Cervantes and two other state senators introduced Senate Memorial 63.

“So it dovetailed very nicely with what the legislature is looking at for college campuses in New Mexico.”

That memorial urges the board of every public New Mexico college to have a tobacco-free policy by 2014.

If a college chooses not to enact a policy, it will have to explain why on the senate floor before the summer of 2014.

Smoking is a public health issue, but also a personal one.

“Tobacco is a drug and people have an addiction to it.”

For people like Randy who want to quit, the Campus Health Center offers resources.

Campus Health is working with the College of Health and Social Services to change the policy through the board and NMSU’s president.

“So we’re hoping that we get some movement with policy probably early in the fall so we’ll be ready to report on that at the legislative session.”