Community College of Philadelphia to ban smoking on campus

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Nick Peterson, 41, an English professor from East Falls, said he’s been trying to quit smoking for 20 years.

As a pregnant faculty member at Community College of Philadelphia six years ago, Kristy Shuda McGuire would walk through "clouds of smoke" to get into her building.

"It really bothered me," said McGuire, an associate biology professor.

The college had a ban on smoking inside buildings and near entrances, but that left a lot of areas of campus vulnerable.

McGuire got herself on the college's business affairs committee, which deals with building usage, and pushed for tighter restrictions.

In January, smoking will be banned on the main campus on Spring Garden Street and at the college's regional centers.

"It's in the interest of the well-being of our students, faculty, and staff," said Donald "Guy" Generals, college president.

No sanctions will be applied the first year, McGuire said. The college will print wallet cards announcing the change with links to smoking-cessation resources. If positive reinforcement doesn't work, penalties may be assessed in year two, she said.

With about 31,000 students, the college becomes the largest campus (in student population) to go smoke-free in Philadelphia. The University of Pennsylvania, with 24,876 students, went smoke-free last September.

McGuire only needs to look at her daughter, now 51/2, to know how long it took.

But she's pleased with the results.

"It's pretty amazing," said McGuire, 38, of Wallingford. "I'm really hoping that it does make a difference. The number one thing you can do to prevent cancer is not smoke."

Smoking kills nearly a half-million Americans every year. Secondhand smoke is blamed for additional deaths. While Philadelphia continues to rank high in its percentage of smokers, fewer are puffing since the city started a major tobacco-control campaign.

Eight years ago, 27.3 percent of adults smoked, compared with 22.4 percent in 2015, according to a regional survey by the nonprofit Public Health Management Corp. and the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Youth rates fell from 10.7 percent to 7.5 percent during the same period.

In Philadelphia, in addition to Penn, La Salle University, Thomas Jefferson University, the University of the Sciences, Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine, and the Restaurant School at Walnut Hill College all have gone smoke-free, according to Terry E. Johnson, a spokesman for the Philadelphia Department of Health.

At CCP, the faculty union supports the decision - and helped make it.

"It's a terrible health crisis," said Steve Jones, copresident of the Faculty and Staff Federation. "It's good for educational institutions to lead on important matters."

Even some smokers don't mind.

"One of the main problems I have is, it's part of my routine at work," said Nick Peterson, 41, an English professor from East Falls. "So, if they kind of ban it here, it might be a good way for me to break my routine."

Peterson, who was smoking outside a campus building Thursday, said he had been trying to quit for 20 years.

"It doesn't bother me," student Omar Montigue, 23, said of the coming ban as he passed the administration building with a cigarette, "because people don't really need to smoke. I smoke, but I'm trying to quit."

Other smokers, though also saying they were trying to quit, said the ban is unfair.

"If anything, they should have designated smoking areas," Kim Cothran, 26, of South Philadelphia, said as she smoked outside the business and industry center. "For exams, we're stressed. After a long class that you're sitting in for hours, you want to come out and relax."

Twenty-seven percent of CCP students recently surveyed said they used tobacco and spend on average $24 per week on it. The survey was conducted by students in a class on research methods in psychology and included 1,051 students - about 3 percent of enrollment.

The college currently prohibits smoking and the use of electronic cigarettes in buildings and within 25 feet of doors, entrances, or ramps.

McGuire said that the current policy isn't always followed and that it's not easy to tell if someone is farther away than 25 feet.

"It's a gray area," said McGuire, who has taught at the college for a decade. "You think, 'It might only be 10 feet, but I don't know for sure.' "

Penn adopted its policy last September. It's not using sanctions, but providing support and communication to get people to comply, said Frank Leone, associate professor of medicine.

Leone said more people are reaching out for help to quit smoking, but it's too early to measure the impact of the policy.

"Our plan is to watch the pattern over the next four or five years," he said.

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