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Continuing their goal to keep students healthy, Ozarks Technical Community College on Wednesday celebrated the 10thanniversary of their tobacco free campus. KSMU’s Shannon Bowers was there.
According to OTC, 30 percent of their first-year students used tobacco in 2003. But today, that number is significantly lower. Captain Jose Balardo, the regional health administrator for the United States Department of Health and Human Services, works with OTC and many other college campuses from Missouri and the surrounding states, assisting them in becoming completely tobacco-free.
“The majority of people start smoking during their college years, between ages 18 and 26, and so we as a department find it important to address this population of college students first because this is where they come and unfortunately a lot of kids come here and unfortunately this is where they start to smoke cigarettes or go take hookah, snous, and some of those other tobacco programs that are not good for anyone’s health,” Balardo Said.
Jordan Vetch is a non-smoking student worker at the computer help desk who notices students pass back and forth all day. He still sees a few smokers hiding and puffing on the outskirts of campus, but for the most part he hasn’t had to deal with many.
“We are making it clear that places need to be more and more tobacco free and people need to steer clear of cigarettes and the health issues with it.”
Social smoker Kinsley Davidiam felt the same way about the campus’ policy but for different reasons.
“I mean even if you are a smoker no one wants to be basking in cigarette smoke.”
But not all students feel like the 100% tobacco free policy is fair. Cody Mortensen is a smoker and doesn’t plan on quitting any time soon.
“Going four or five hours a day, people that smoke are going to want somewhere to go without having to drive half a mile down the block to smoke.”
OTC was the first college campus that went 100% tobacco free in Missouri. Over 15,000 Universities have since done the same, including Missouri State and Drury University. Dr. Norman Myer is the former president of OTC and was a pivotal player in slowly implementing its tobacco-free policies.
“Then we decided to go smoke, tobacco free. We tried to do it so we could respect the smokers and asked for their cooperation and by and large we got it. We started thinking about this and passed a policy in 1999 and it gave use three or four years to work to the point where we actually went tobacco free,” said Dr. Myer.
While the policies are clear that tobacco use is prohibited campus wide, it is typically enforced at OTC by a friendly reminder. The same way MSU handles its tobacco free campus. Drury University on the other hand enforces their policy via fines that can exceed 200 dollars and can even entails hours of community service.
Ozarks Technical Community College plans on continuing to be a role model for tobacco-free campuses across the nation with the health message that cigarette smoking is the number one cause of preventable disease and death worldwide, claiming that over 393,000 American lives each year.
For KSMU News, I'm Shannon Bowers