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TMCC to Explore Smoke-free Campaign

K. Patricia Bouweraerts
Dandini Smoking Areas Map

Smoking areas on Dandini Campus: near the north bus stop, to the southeast of Sierra Building, and the picnic table south of the Red Mountain Building. Click map to enlarge.

When David Turner II moved to Reno from Las Vegas, he found a new family of close friends at Truckee Meadows Community College, and concern for his new companions and mentors led him to become involved in student leadership.

“Students are here to make a brighter future for themselves and they can have a better and brighter future if they don’t use tobacco,” said Turner who is 2016-2017 Student Government Association (SGA) President.

Julia Bledsoe, Program Officer in Assessment and Planning at TMCC, is also interested in health and fitness activities. She became involved in the staff Wellness Initiative during Fall Semester 2015. As part of this effort, Bledsoe included a Wellness Wednesday session, “Tobacco 101,” presented by Mary Karls, a health educator who works for the Washoe County Health Department.

Spring SGA Wellness Week was coordinated by the SGA and led by Turner. Karls conducted surveys about tobacco use on campus. She let Turner and Bledsoe know about the opportunity to apply for a Truth Initiative grant — a type of award specifically geared toward community colleges.

Laura Vargas, Grants Specialist, joined Turner and Bledsoe’s work, and the three completed the application for the Truth Initiative’s Smoke-free and Tobacco-free Community College Grant. Truth Initiative® is a national non-profit organization dedicated to reducing tobacco use in young adults. Vargas submitted the paperwork after obtaining the approval and support of J. Kyle Dalpe, PhD, TMCC Acting President, Spring Semester 2016.

On June 10, the grant application was approved, and TMCC has been awarded $10,000. The grant supports activities dedicated to spreading awareness of tobacco’s effects and to provide smoking cessation resources. The primary goal of the initiative is to promote and support advocacy for and create policy for the adoption of smoke- and tobacco-free policies across all sites of TMCC.

New Smoking and Smoke-free Areas at TMCC

“TMCC, including all sites, is now a breathe-easy zone,” Bledsoe said. “Designated smoking areas have been established to help smokers transition toward a tobacco-free campus.”

Smoking and non-smoking zones outside have been changed, and are marked with signs. A map of the newly adjusted smoking areas on the Dandini Campus are shown in the map at right:

  • Near the bus stop to the north of the Red Mountain Building
  • By the wind turbines to the southeast of the Sierra Building
  • At the picnic table near landscaped shrubbery, southwest of the Red Mountain Building

At Meadowood Center, the designated smoking area is to be announced, and the site will post updated signage.

For William N. Pennington Applied Technology Center, the tobacco use area is near the bus stop, but not going past the boundary of TMCC grounds.

At William N. Pennington Health Science Center, the location allowed for smoking is to the south, opposite from the main entrance and 100 feet from the doorway. An updated map will be posted.

Interesting Tobacco Facts

Part of the grant’s terminology includes definitions for tobacco-free and smoke-free. Smoke-free policies apply to products that emit smoke or steam. These products include cigarettes, cigars, pipes, hookah and electronic cigarettes. Tobacco-free policies prohibit use of any tobacco product, such as cigarettes, cigars, pipes, hookah, smokeless tobacco and chewing tobacco.

Truth Initiative provides some interesting data, including the following:

  • Of smokers, 99 percent start before they are 27 years old.
  • Students with an associate degree who smoke: 17.9 percent.
  • Students with a bachelor’s degree who smoke: 9.1 percent.
  • Dogs and cats are twice as likely to get cancer if their owners smoke.

Colleges in more than 25 states have received grants from the Truth Initiative organization. Also, locally, the University of Nevada, Reno established a “Tobacco-Free University” policy on Aug. 1, 2015.

Karin Hilgersom, PhD, TMCC President supports the student initiative to create a healthier learning and working environment.

“In Nevada over 4,000 deaths are attributed to tobacco use annually, this is the number one cause of avoidable death in the United States,” Dr. Hilgersom said. “Over $1 billion is spent in Nevada alone on annual health care costs directly related to tobacco use. By establishing a tobacco-free, smoke-free environment we will reduce risks not only for tobacco users but also reduce exposure to carcinogens and asthma triggers for non-tobacco users.”

Grant Period is 18 Months: June 15, 2016–Dec. 15, 2017

The initial new grantee orientation meeting took place on June 27. Bledsoe, Turner and Vargas were joined by Nicole Shimabuku, Student Activities and Leadership Coordinator and Tammy Freeman, Grants Manager. Also attending were Rebecca Jostens, Executive Assistant, TMCC Foundation and a representative from Washoe County Health District (WCHD).

A formal committee will be established. Representatives from all departments and sites are being sought. This committee will include additional students, and Karls will serve as a community member on the committee.

“It’s better to let people on campus know that they are a part of the process, and that’s it’s a democratic college community effort,” Turner said.

Dr. Hilgersom adds that the process will be gradual.

“I understand restricting tobacco use on our campus sites can lead to increased stress on students already feeling the pressures of keeping up with their studies and are often times balancing classes with their work and home life,” she said. “Over the next few months the College will provide information, education, and data on smoking and smokeless tobacco cessation programs in an effort to help those who would like to ‘kick the habit.’"

Close to 1,500 U.S. campuses are now tobacco and smoke free.

For more information about the Smoke-free and Tobacco-free Community College Grant, please contact Julia Bledsoe at 775-673-8290.