Community colleges prepare for tobacco ban - East Valley Tribune: East Valley Local News

Community colleges prepare for tobacco ban

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Posted: Saturday, November 19, 2011 7:00 am | Updated: 5:12 pm, Fri Nov 25, 2011.

A picture of untreated "hairy tongue," a jar of tar, another jar filled with green phlegm, a replica of stained teeth with ulcer-covered gums and tongue, a blackened lung, nail polish remover and rat poison all lined the IGNITE (Influence, Guide, Network for Inter-Collegiate Tobacco Education) table at Mesa Community College's student center.

Each item on the table demonstrated either what tobacco products can do to those who use them or illustrated the kind of chemicals and toxins found in cigarettes.

Most people who stopped at the table were nonsmokers or former smokers. Some hoped to pick up information about quitting for a family member or a friend. Others were drawn by the comparison of a healthy lung and a black lung. A few asked questions about the jars of gunk on display or the toxins found in cigarettes.

Deandre Dupis-Harrison, a sophomore, asked questions as he poked at the packaged pig lung that demonstrated what a human lung looks like after 15 to 20 years of smoking.

"I bet people are still going to look at this and walk straight out that door and smoke a cigarette," Dupis-Harrison said.

While he may be correct for now, that won't be the case for long. Starting July 1, 2012, smoking and tobacco products will be banned from Maricopa County Community College District property.

"As an educational institution, we have an obligation to lead the way in matters of health awareness and education," said Chancellor Rufus Glasper in a press release last month. "When this policy goes into effect, our district and its 10 colleges will join hundreds of other colleges and universities across the country in what is a growing trend."

About 500 American universities and colleges prohibit on-campus smoking, tobacco or both.

And while the ban was announced last month, Wednesday marked the formal introduction of the Maricopa BreatheEasy initiative, a program designed to help those who work and learn at a Maricopa Community College school transition to a smoke- and tobacco-free campus. The formal announcement was in conjunction with the Great American Smokeout, a national campaign by the American Cancer Society to help people quit smoking.

"We're announcing this change early because we recognize that it will require a change in behavior in a significant number of our students, faculty members and employees," Glasper said in a video announcement on the district's website.

The district is still trying to ensure people who work and learn on all its properties are aware of the upcoming change in the tobacco policy, said Angela Askey, MCC media relations coordinator.

"Right now, we're just trying to get the word out," Askey said.

Specific ways on how the district will enforce the ban haven't been finalized yet, and the district plans to explain how the ban will be enforced closer to the July start-date.

To help students and employees quit, the district has launched a website, breatheeasy.maricopa.edu, which has tips for quitting, resources for support, information about what tobacco use can lead to and an explanation as to why the school has initiated the program.

"Tobacco-free policies are not about forcing individuals to change their lifestyle or behavior," the online website states. "Rather, they intend to protect the greater campus community and district interests."

There has been some animosity toward the initiative, but on Wednesday, most of the people stopping at the display table at Mesa Community College liked the idea of a smoke-free campus. Nearly all the people who stopped by the table signed a pledge to not smoke for 24 hours.

"It's better, it's healthier for everyone around (campus)," said James Palma, a freshman. "I don't know why people smoke. It's a nasty habit."

For more information on the initiative, and to look for tips to help quit, visit breatheeasy.maricopa.edu.

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