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R-MC Plans to Become a Smoke-Free Campus

Updated: Aug 11, 2020

Emma White '22

News Editor

On Nov. 1, Randolph-Macon College will effectively become a smoke free and vape free campus. This announcement was made at the end of September by Dean Azdell, R-MC Dean of Students.

Before this change, the campus smoking policy prohibited smoking within twenty-five feet of any campus buildings, including residence halls, townhouses, and special interest housing. This new policy states that smoking and vaping will be prohibited on any college owned or managed facilities, and on college property, and that persons over 21 will be limited to only smoking on public property such as town streets and sidewalks.

In the United States, over 2,300 colleges and universities are smoke-free, amounting to about half of U.S. schools overall. This number is double the amount of smoke-free campuses that existed in 2012, indicating a substantial shift.

Nicotine use in the U.S. has fluctuated greatly over time. From the 1940s to the 1960s, almost half of all American adults were smoking cigarettes. This number started to dwindle when studies began relating tobacco use to a range of diseases. Since then, the smoking data line has remained on a downward trend.

This began to shift once again with the introduction of the electronic cigarette.

Since their entrance to the market in 2003, e-cigarettes have become extremely popular, and in the 2010s, they started to gain significant traction. Though many vaping devices are marketed as smoking cessation products, they are now a trendy object for teens and young adults.

This campus policy change will go into effect exactly 4 months after the legal tobacco age was officially raised to 21 in Virginia, as well as in 17 other states. These changes have not been unprecedented. Since this summer, reports of vape-related deaths and illnesses have been reported increasingly, causing a huge uproar of concern. At least 16 vape-related deaths have been reported, on top of the 805 reported cases of lung illness related to vaping. Many of these instances were reported in teenagers and young adults.

These illnesses have been attributed to the use of not only nicotine devices, but marijuana cartridges as well. Such cartridges contain tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, the psychoactive component of marijuana, and are being sold in large amounts for low prices on the black market.

Since they are unregulated, they are said to contain harmful chemicals that cause illness in the lungs. Due to the novelty of many of these products, we do not have enough information on what risks truly lie in their continued use.

In his announcement, Dean Azdell also encouraged smokers to keep the area and environment clean by properly disposing of any smoking waste. Since the 1980s, cigarette waste has comprised over 30% of all litter, and cigarettes are the most littered item in the country. While technically biodegradable, cigarette waste only breaks down under specific circumstances, meaning most of the debris remains for long periods of time.

Cigarette butts are also harmful to the soil and various bodies of water, contaminating oceans and rivers with chemicals that are potentially toxic to local organisms. We as a school have a responsibility to the environment and to the town’s cleanliness, and proper disposal of cigarettes definitely plays a role in this.

R-MC is planning to go smoke free by Nov. 1. Photo Courtesy of Mayo Clinic.

Overall, this policy change is an attempt to further discourage students from using vape devices and cigarettes, and to foster a generally healthier environment for students as a whole. In his email, Dean Azdell provides a link to resources for smoking cessation. One resource, Quit Now Virginia, is a telephone and online information and coaching service. They provide coaches, one-on-one advice, and self-help materials, all for free. There are other helpful texline and web links provided in the email link as well. In addition to these online resources, we are fortunate to have the Center for Counseling Services on our campus. At Counseling Services, they offer personal counseling appointments, consultations, and referrals, all included in tuition. Students are encouraged to visit the Counseling house if they are struggling with things like tobacco or other substance use. The staff are trained professionals equipped to provide therapy and advice on any situation a college student might be going through. We must take care of both ourselves and the world around us, and becoming a smoke-free campus is one small step in that direction.

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