WSU official on tobacco policy: ‘Some people are choosing to ignore the policy’

WICHITA, Kan. (KSNW) – Is Wichita State University’s new tobacco free policy working?

There are signs reading ‘tobacco free campus’ plastered throughout the university. The notice is on individual signs, on doors and even on t-shirts. KSN asked a number of WSU students if they have witnessed people using tobacco since the policy was put in place on July 1, 2017.

“Yeah, I’ve seen it a couple of times, maybe. I’ve seen it near the Rhatigan Student Center (RSC) at the back there and I’ve also seen it somewhat in the parking lots,” said freshman Jeremy Bartnick.

“I have not seen any smoking. I have seen people use electronic e-cigarettes near the parking lots and things, but as far as like smoke-able tobacco, I have not seen anybody smoke,” said sophomore Alex Varenhorst.

“No, I have not seen anyone smoking,” said graduate student Muzimmil Zeeshan.

“Yeah, it happens like kind of frequently,” said sophomore Noelle Thompson.

“Yeah, I see them usually right in front of the RSC or over on the other entrances. It’s usually people hang out there in the evening, after classes have already been done and they just smoke like there’s no tomorrow, like they don’t really care,” said sophomore Raine McDonald.

The university’s tobacco free campus policy bans people from using tobacco products in WSU buildings, structures, parking structures, enclosed bridges, walkways, sidewalks and parking lots owned, leased or operated by WSU.

“The main thing it says is Wichita State is a tobacco free campus and that includes all tobacco products. That includes cigarettes, smokeless products, electronic cigarettes and any other type of vaping devices as well as cigars and things like that,” said Sedgwick County Tobacco Control Coordinator Tara Nolen.

Nolen assisted WSU with developing the tobacco policy. She is now assigned to policy enforcement.

“A class from the department of public health sciences actually is monitoring campus. There’s almost 20 students who have put in about 15-hours a piece,” Nolan said.

The students are tasked with monitoring campus for people in violation of the tobacco policy. Nolan said it’s common for the monitors to find people using tobacco on campus.

“I think some people are choosing to ignore the policy,” Nolan said. “There have been some violations that have been captured and what happens is the student will approach the person with a card that has information about the policy on one side and cessation information on the other side and just ask them to comply with the policy.”

However, the monitors cannot punish or penalize people for violating the tobacco policy. The enforcement section of the policy reads: 

The successful implementation of the policy on July 1, 2017, will engage Student and Faculty Ambassadors in creating a tobacco-free culture based on respectful compliance from the campus community. Ambassadors will be trained to use scripted, courteous messages, reminding/informing students, employees and visitors that Wichita State University is a tobacco-free campus and directing them to available cessations services.

“When the policy was developed it was really hopeful that everybody would just follow it because that’s what we’re supposed to do when there is a rule, you follow the rule,” Nolan said.

Nolan said when the policy was written the university did not want to penalize violators. However, she said if people continue to break the rules, they may have to revisit the policy and add in possible punishments.

“We don’t have to move to more negative consequences, but the information we are collecting will help us prepare for whatever step we need to take next,” she said.

Nolan said next steps could include additional education and communication about the policy as well as adding more signage around campus.

Per WSU Tobacco Free Campus Policy:
Tobacco products are defined as all tobacco-derived or containing products, including but not limited to the following:

  • cigarettes;
  • electronic cigarettes;
  • electronic smoking devices;
  • vaping products;
  • cigars;
  • products smoked in any type of pipe;
  • smokeless tobacco;
  • oral tobacco (spit producing, non-spit producing, smokeless, chew and snuff)
  • nasal tobacco;
  • products intended to mimic tobacco products that contain tobacco flavoring;
  • products that deliver nicotine other than for the purpose of cessation, as approved by the FDA (e.g. nicotine patch, nicotine gum).

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