Letter to the Editor: Ben Lotto, Acting Dean of the College

November 2, 2015

Dear Editors:

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.


Benjamin Lotto

Acting Dean of the College

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