November 2, 2015
I am writing to respond to the editorial, “Smoking ban lacks clarity” (10/29). The college’s decision to go smoke-free as of July 2015 was made in 2013. That timing has allowed for a carefully constructed, nearly two-year education and communication campaign to unfold.
This work included several offices on campus, including Health Services, Human Resources, Communications, Residential Life, Buildings and Grounds, and Safety and Security.
The effort was a multi-faceted approach that included:
- email communications from President Hill
- campus-wide poster campaigns in dorms and elsewhere
- development of the website http://smokefree.vassar.edu/ featuring information about the move to a smoke-free campus and free smoking cessation resources
- development of a video, which has been featured on the homepage
- outreach to students from the Offices of Health Services
- offering a few series of cessation classes for students and employees (for a $10 fee)
- offering two hypnosis sessions for cessation (free)
- inclusion of policy information in all materials to prospective students and employees, and for all summer program participants
- development of “palm cards” to be distributed to the community
- a campus mailing of informational cards to employees
Since the policy took effect in July, further efforts have included:
- an all-campus email
- signage at every entrance to campus and on security vehicles
- signage around the Powerhouse Theater for summer audiences attending performances
- discussion of the policy with incoming freshmen at orientation
- reminders about the policy to returning students
- training security officers about the policy and how to approach smokers on campus, with an emphasis on policy education and reminders
- a plan for further cessation offerings for students and employees in the spring semester.
The goal of the long roll-out was to ensure that the entire campus community would hear of the policy and to allow ample time to adapt. The Smoke-Free Task Force recommended a friendly enforcement approach for the beginning of the policy for largely the same reasons: to allow the community to adapt to the new policy and also to further education about it.This model has been used successfully other colleges and also in the roll-out of other smoke-free efforts (namely, in restaurants and bars) in cities across the United States.
By becoming smoke-free Vassar has joined more than 1,620 college and universities nationwide with similar policies.The recent email that was sent by Residential Life to students living in the apartments was meant to be a reminder about smoking in or near residences because of the very real and serious danger of fire. This has been prohibited and enforced properly for many years to insure the safety of our students.
The email was not meant to signal a change in the education-focused enforcement of the more recent all-campus smoking ban, which will continue.
Our ongoing goal is to help the community transition smoothly to being smoke-free and, by and large, that is what’s happening. The smoke-free policy was enacted to ensure a healthier campus for everyone in the Vassar community and all efforts to support it are geared toward that goal.
Acting Dean of the College