February 21, 2017
By Mary Alice Maloney
Since the beginning of the fall 2016 semester, the Dominican community has been greeted on both the Main and Priory campus with a sticker that reads “Dominican University is proud to be a tobacco-free campus.” These stickers aim to reinforce the tobacco-free campus policy that was officially instated on Aug. 15, 2016.
According to Dominican officials, the transition to becoming a tobacco-free campus has been smooth and free of problems. “It’s been really great,” Carol Seley, business operations and risk manager said. “People have been very respectful and cooperative.”
When the policy was first announced in January 2016, Seley reported that the administration received positive feedback.
“When the email went out announcing the new policy, Amy McCormack, senior vice president for finance and administration, got a phone call from someone who was almost in tears because they were so happy, since they have asthma and every time they would walk out of a building they would have to deal with the smoke,” Seley said.
Elizabeth Ritzman, director of the wellness center, said that most of the response to the new policy has been from people who suffer from asthma or respiratory health issues. “Tobacco and cigarette smoke can really aggravate those health issues, and we’re glad that the new policy has been positive for people dealing with them,” Ritzman said.
On the enforcement side of the new policy, there have been no reported problems.
“The campus safety and security department has had zero issues with people not complying,” Seley said. “Luckily with Dominican being a small campus, people are happy enough to just walk to their cars or stand off campus to smoke or use tobacco products.”
However, those Dominican community members who do smoke or use tobacco products are not being ostracized.
“There of course is concern for people who smoke and how this policy affects them,” Ritzman said.
Dominican offers free tobacco cessation and smoker support resources, and according to Ritzman, has offered these services for several years.
“If a student wishes to stop smoking and they need gum, the patch, medication, or seek group support, we offer all of those resources for free,” Ritzman said. Since the smoke-free campus policy went into effect, Ritzman said only one student has come by the Wellness Center seeking help in smoking cessation.
Student Government Association President Jonathon Sass said that while student feedback has been positive, some students who smoke found the onset of the tobacco-free policy to be a little quick. “Some students were just not completely aware of the transition at first,” Sass said.
According to Seley, the administration aimed to get information about the policy out to the masses as quickly and efficiently as possible.
“We went to the Student Government Association last year, and we had an awareness campaign that started about a year ago where we had put signs up, sort of saying ‘it’s coming’, Seley said.
Otherwise, Sass said that most students are taking the new policy in stride.
“Overall, the students have taken quite well to it,” Sass said. “Some concerns have been raised primarily by those that live on Priory campus, as some students are uncomfortable having to walk out to the street late at night to have a cigarette,” Sass continued. “At this point though, everyone has accepted the idea and have found ways to cope with any inconvenience such as going to their car or pairing up with a friend, using a buddy system to feel safer at night.”
The onset of the policy was not seen by the administration as being a drastic measure, due to the fact that students had previously shown interest in a smoke-free campus and because the passing of new state laws prohibited smoking in public as well.
“In 2005, the president of the student government association and the SGA board submitted a request to the President’s Cabinet to go smoke-free,” Seley said. “It was in the works, but other things just got in the way. So this time around, it was really just a matter of completing the process.”
The passing of the Smoke-free Illinois Act in 2008 also contributed to Dominican’s decision to become tobacco and smoke-free.
“Smoke-free places are so common now, not even just at institutions, but at public places like bars, theaters, restaurants, that Dominican going smoke-free just seemed like a natural step,” Seley explained.
Sass mirrored the general positive sentiment toward the tobacco-free campus policy. “I believe it has done what it was set out to do: promote a healthier lifestyle for students, faculty, and staff alike,” Sass said.