Shepherd University to implement tobacco-free policy

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Shepherd University buildings include "No Smoking Within 25 Feet" signs.

SHEPHERDSTOWN, W.Va.,- Shepherd University has announced that its campuses will be going smoke-free on Jan. 1 in hopes to combat campus and community tobacco use.

Endorsed last week by the Shepherd University Board of Governors, the policy includes the use of cigarettes, smokeless tobacco such as chew or snuff, electronic vaping devices, and hookahs. This includes all Shepherd University facilities, grounds within the campus boundaries as well as within University-owned or leased vehicles.

According to a press release made by the university, Shepherd plans to use a “soft enforcement approach” as the campus adapts to these new changes. Teams of volunteer “Ambassadors from the Campus Community” will visit former campus smoking areas to seek compliance and educate.

But at least some Shepherd students aren’t all that enthused by the move.

“Maybe people will pursue college elsewhere because they feel they are being discriminated against,” said Shepherd University senior Abigail Ayers in a recent interview.

“Parents who smoke may also visit their kids less,” she added.

Before the University’s plans to institute a more sweeping smoking restriction surfaced, Ayers said the only policy she was aware of is where smoking is prohibited within 30 feet of a building entrance. Having experience working in Residence life, Ayers, a history

Shepherd University Student Center, a popular smoking area on campus.

major, said she also has never noticed any promotion of tobacco use prevention classes or anything regarding the University’s care towards students’ habits.

Last week’s announcement by the university comes after Student Affairs sent out an email to students on Nov. 9 promoting a free tobacco cessation class, which is being offered for a fourth time on Dec 3.

A four-week course and students were encouraged to come to one, or all four classes. This class is offered by “TAKE STOC: Smoking and Tobacco off Campus,” which awarded the University a $15,000 grant back in 2017.

“Shepherd will do anything if money is involved; it’s bankrupt or morality, an (expletive) for the government,” said Shepherd Senior David Warner, who predicted the university’s policy move might very well be resisted by students.

“I think students will protest or ignore the new rules in general…smoking has not died out, especially with the rise of vapes,” Warner said.

“People smoke all over, all of the time now because its relaxing, especially during the taxing college experience,” the English major added.

Warner also wonders how a smoke-free policy would be handled by faculty and staff. The policy states however that those individuals that do not comply to the new rule will be looked at as “trespassers” and will be asked to leave campus.

According to Student Residence life, there are 3,723 students enrolled at Shepherd University and 36 percent of those students pay for on-campus residential housing.

While some students feel this policy could benefit the University, they also feel that new rules will be hard to enforce.

Amber Phillips, a sophomore majoring in biology said that a smoke-free campus would be “theoretically” healthier, but . . . ”just because a place claims to be tobacco-free does not mean it is.”

Warner believes the change will cause littering problems.

“With the removal of cigarette disposal devices, cigarette butts will litter the campus more than usual because if you’re a smoker you’re not going to just stop; which means there will be a higher risk of trashcan fires,” Warner said.

Some students who were interviewed say they have noticed littering around campus, specifically cigarette butts, and wonder if the college has the resources needed for proper disposal. While some suggest that the university purchase more outdoor ashtrays, other students indicated that the ashtrays take away from the campus’s beauty.

Student smokers use flowerpots as disposal devices near Student Center smoking area.

“I try to find an ashtray however Shepherd hides them and when they get knocked down, wait weeks or months to put them back up,” Warner said.

Phillips said she discards her cigarette butts in a trashcan when she is done with them and would like to see more trashcans on campus.

“No matter what a board declares or how much money the university receives in grants, if people want to smoke, they will.” Phillips said.