By ANDREW PAXTON
Tobacco and e-cigarette users at Pima Community College may soon find themselves quarantined from the rest of the population.
Pima’s governing board heard a first reading of a new policy that, if approved, will designate smoking, “vaping” and smokeless-tobacco use to specific areas.
The college has been studying whether to change the smoking policy since September 2012, when Faculty Senate first debated the issue.
Since then, Staff Council and student governments have been consulted, and a college-wide survey was conducted last semester. Thousands of students, staff and administrators took part in the survey.
“The strong indication was a large majority were in favor of changing the policy,” David Bea, vice chancellor of finance, told board members during their Oct. 9 meeting.
Designated tobacco areas will be far enough away to allow non-smokers to attend classes without having to pass through a cloud of smoke, according to college officials.
However, smokers will not be forced to walk long distances to smoke, Bea said. The college has yet to finalize the designated smoking locations.
Pima’s current policy requires smokers to be 25 feet away from entrances and air intakes, but adherence and enforcement has been a concern.
“It’s almost an impossibility,” Bea said.
“Most of the time people don’t comply not because they’re defiant, but because it isn’t clear to them what compliance is,” he said. “It will be a lot easier to enforce if there are restricted areas.”
Anyone who is smoking outside of designated areas will be asked to move or cease smoking.
If they refuse or become defiant, administration will be notified under the employee or student code of conduct.
Most students and staff agree a change is needed, according to a college survey.
The college plans to finalize the policy by January 2014, according to Bea. This will allow time to communicate to students and faculty about the new policy, determine where to locate smoking areas and distribute smoking-cessation materials.
The total cost for signage and other logistics to set up the new smoking policy was not expected to exceed $25,000, according to the board proposal.
PROPOSAL ALSO REGULATES E-GIGS
The use of electronic cigarettes has exploded across the country and government officials and health advocates are scrambling to stem the surge, especially among youths.
Americans will spend $1.7 billion on e-cigs this year alone, according to a tobacco industry analyst from Wells Fargo Securities.
Pima Community College’s current smoking policy does not address e-cig use.
Students can often be seen “vaping” near doorways, inside buildings and even in classrooms.
The college is considering a new policy that would restrict e-cigs under the same rules as tobacco products.
Use would only be permitted in designated areas or inside personal vehicles.
One in 10 high school students tried e-cigs in 2012, according to the Los Angeles Times.
That has many health experts worried this will lead to increased cigarette smoking.
Furthermore, with e-cigs coming in flavors such as bubblegum and cotton candy, some experts think teens are the intended market.
Authors of a study detailing rising e-cig use among teens issued a warning with their findings.
“Given the rapid increase in use and youths’ susceptibility to social and environmental influences to use tobacco, developing strategies to prevent marketing, sales and use of e-cigarettes among youths is critical,” they wrote
The industry insists children are not their target.
“Kids aren’t supposed to be buying any tobacco product,” Tom Kiklas, chief financial officer of Tobacco Vapor Electronic Cigarette Assn., told the LA Times.
The FDA does not regulate e-cigarettes, although the agency has indicated it wants to change its policy.