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Dorms snuff out smoking July 1

By Kayla Pearson
Assistant News Editor

Effective July 1, all residence halls will be smoke-free due to a state bill passed last summer.

House Bill 24, S.L.2007-193, ratified by the General Assembly of North Carolina on June 29, 2007, and signed by the governor on July 8, 2007, prohibits smoking in buildings owned, leased or occupied by the state government.

People are required to be at least 100 feet away from buildings when smoking.

The bill provided an exemption for university residence halls until the 2008-2009 school year to avoid contract conflicts.

However, according to Housing Director Preston Swiney, the steps toward smoke-free residences were already in progress, and the bill just accelerated the process.

Photo by Tashieka Hammond
Brian Warren, sophomore, smokes a cigarette in front of West Hall. Beginning July 1 all residence halls will become smoke-free.

Steps started with Oak Hall opening as smoke-free.

The first and second floors of Pine Hall were made smoke-free in Fall 2007 with the understanding that it would be completely smoke-free in 2008. Also, more chemical, alcohol and smoke free environment (CASE) halls were added in North and Belk.

Both the state and university are concerned with health risks associated with secondhand smoke.

“Secondhand smoke exposure is not as detrimental as smoking but has been linked to some of the same risks as smoking such as lung cancer,” said Registered Nurse Lori Wiggins in Student Health Services.

It is the belief that cutting out smoking in residence halls will decrease student illnesses on campus.

“I see a lot of students with bronchitis, cold symptoms and allergies. I think a lot is related to secondhand smoke and this decision will have a big impact on students being sick,” Wiggins added.

In addition to secondhand smoke, there is an issue of student safety, especially with most halls being at least three stories and some being six.

“With people smoking in rooms, there is always a possibility of fire,” Swiney said.

Housing accommodations will eventually be improved for future residents.

Even though a room is cleaned, the smell from smoke still lingers. Students won’t have the problem of coming into a room that smells like smoke, Swiney said.

Healthier lifestyles by students are also hoped to come from this decision.

“We’re encouraging students to make healthy choices and hoping to help students quit smoking or not take up the smoking habit,” Swiney said.

Some students agree.

“I think it’s a great thing. It puts a restraint on those who do smoke and maybe that will give them a reason to quit,” said junior Dewone Gaillard.

A question of fairness comes to other students minds.

“Yes second hand smoke is a problem, but there are other solutions such as reserving sections of buildings to be smoke-free. You don’t need to go as extreme to say a person can’t smoke when they pay just as much money as everyone else,” Barry Burch, SGA president and ex-smoker, said.

Burch is more concerned with the addiction people have for smoking and the fact that some students use smoking as a way to take a break and relieve stress.

“When I did smoke, it was when I felt overwhelmed or just wanted to chill with friends. Smoking allowed me to take a break, and it does the same for some others, too,” he said.

The Tobacco Task Coalition, which is in partnership with the Counseling and Testing Center and funded by the NC Health and Wellness Trust Fund, has programs in place to help students prevent tobacco use. They also include sensation methods for those ready to quit.

Smoke-free residence halls help in their efforts for “healthier choices for a healthier university,” Prevention Education Coordinator April Oxendine said.

“It’s always an important goal to help individuals to live healthier,” she said.

According to a survey done by the group, 79 percent of UNCP students prefer to live in a tobacco free residence; 84 percent of the UNCP community, including students, faculty and staff, do not use tobacco products; and 78 percent of UNCP students prefer to socialize in a smoke free environment.

“I was not around when the survey was done, but from what I hear they are very pleased with the results of the data,” Oxendine said.

Individuals who want help in quitting smoking can call Quit Line NC at 1-800-Quit Now. Trained coaches are available from 8 a.m. to midnight seven days a week.

The task force will be meeting again on Feb 26.

“We are always welcoming individuals, even students,” Oxendine said.



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Updated: Sunday, February 24, 2008
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