By Nate Kahn
From the back of Syre Student Center to between Cascade Hall and Kelly Hall, it’s nearly impossible not to catch a whiff of secondhand smoke while walking around campus. In June 2014, the Associated Students of Whatcom Community College approved a statement urging the campus to establish smoke-free zones. Whatcom followed through by creating designated smoking areas behind Syre and between Cascade and Kelly.
The areas have glass windowed, bus stop like shelters that people smoke inside of, however, due to the pure volume of smokers, most light up outside of the shelters. The smoke omitted from the area drifts overs to walkways and entrances to buildings, causing the secondhand smoke to impact non-smoking students and faculty.
Isolating the smokers to certain areas is a better alternative to having a smoke friendly campus where anyone could smoke anywhere, according to students trying to quit. Although those students said they feel that there are still improvements that can and should be made. Whatcom student Andrew Lesnikowski, 19, is currently in the process of cutting out cigarettes from his life. He recommended that the current smoking shelters should have a “better ventilation system”, Lesnikowski explained “The only reason I feel triggered to smoke a cigarette is when I smell them.”
Paul Curd, a personal counselor at Whatcom often works with students who struggle with addiction. Curd emphasized the importance of understanding the smoking and non-smoking sides of the second hand smoke issue.
“It’s difficult balancing the smokers’ rights to be here and smoke, with the students’ rights to not be triggered,” said Curd.
Curd offered possible solutions to second hand smoke that triggers students who are trying to quit.
“Removing that stimulus, or putting it even further out, then obviously you got the students who do smoke who have to walk farther,” said Curd.
Consideration for smokers and non-smokers is crucial when changing the cigarette policies on campus, Curd explained.
In 2005, Washington state voters passed Washington Initiative 901 in order to prohibit smoking in public places. The law concerns the prevention of second hand smoke inhalation.
According to Whatcom County’s official government website, under RCW 70.160 the Smoking in Public Places Law (SIPP) states that “secondhand smoke poses a significant health risk, and prohibiting smoking in public places protects you from exposure to second hand smoke and the toxic chemicals it contains. There is no safe level of exposure to secondhand smoke.”
The SIPP regulations prohibit smoking within 25 feet of doors used for entering and exiting public buildings as well as windows that open.
Whatcom abides by the rules, however, students are still susceptible to secondhand smoke.
Walking from the parking lots to the campus, students say it’s difficult to avoid the smell of cigarette smoke on campus. For this predicament Curd suggested that students trying to quit smoking should change their routine to help them stay smoke free.
“Choosing a different route to walk to class, so they avoid the potential for that trigger,” said Curd.
Though trying to prevent secondhand smoke from triggering ex-smokers is a difficult battle. The next best option to help the process of quitting is addiction replacement therapy.
Using a healthy activity to counter nicotine cravings often prevents smokers from relapsing.
“For a lot of people, things like chewing gum … some people use a rubber band around their wrist and they’ll pop themselves anytime they feel the inclination,” said Curd.
Although there isn’t any nicotine specific help on campus, Curd suggested that students who are trying to quit and feel triggered by the secondhand smoke contact smoking cessation programs such as support groups or phone based counseling.
“These are the sort of resources that we’re going to get them connected with in the community, since frankly we don’t have a lot of that on campus in the present,” said Curd.