Whitworth's smoke and tobacco free initiative

Heidi Massey | Staff Writer

Whitworth’s Health Education Action Team, and Director of Student Health Services, Amy Cutler, are promoting an initiative to make Whitworth a smoke and tobacco free campus. Two town hall meetings have already been held to discuss the initiative, and two more will be held later this month. A draft policy for the initiative has been approved by a task force; whether this policy will be adopted will be decided on Nov. 1.

According to Cutler, spring of 2017 was the starting point of the initiative.

“There was an increased interest and discussion in it among staff, faculty and students to where they thought this could be something we could look into doing for Whitworth,” she said.

Beginning in the fall of 2017, various programming events that discussed tobacco use or smoking took place on campus. For example, in Nov. 2017, Whitworth held an event called the Great American Smokeout. This event involved the community outside of Whitworth, bringing in a counselor to talk about addiction support, and city council President Ben Stuckart who shared his story of quitting smoking.

“I think that was really impactful, and there were a lot of ways to encourage people and essentially celebrate that you can quit for a day, or you can quit for a lifetime,” Cutler said.

Also in Nov. 2017, a survey was conducted to assess student attitudes, opinions and behaviors regarding tobacco use. A similar survey was given to faculty and staff in Feb. 2018.

“The survey findings from faculty, staff and students overwhelmingly do support a smoke and tobacco free campus,” Cutler said.

According to the Center for Disease Control, tobacco use is the leading cause of preventable deaths in the US, causing about 480,000 deaths per year in the United States, or one in five deaths annually. About 41,000 of these deaths are from secondhand smoke exposure.

“Tobacco in the US is the leading cause of preventable death,” she said. “If that’s something that can be prevented and we can play a role in that by providing a healthier campus for our community, that would be wonderful.”

Junior Anya Nordling is member of the Health Education Action Team, and has been very involved in raising awareness about the smoke and tobacco free initiative.

“Smoking is one of the leading causes of cardiovascular disease, not to mention what nicotine does to your brain when you vape,” she said, also noting that there is no safe distance to avoid exposure to secondhand smoke.

Nordling believes that changing Whitworth’s smoke and tobacco policy to prohibit such products would benefit the campus.

“We are fairly convinced, especially after the data, especially after everything that we’ve done this past year, that it’s something that would really benefit campus,” she said.

According to Cutler, if the policy is adopted, nicotine replacement products such as gum and lozenges will be provided at no cost to students, staff and faculty.

“There will be a grace period so people have time to adjust and adapt if the policy goes through,  in addition to connecting people with resources,” Cutler said.

Will Skalstad, a freshman, agrees that Whitworth should be a smoke and tobacco free campus.

“I think that tobacco and smoking products can be really damaging to a developing brain,” he said. “Since we’re all in that phase in life where school is our number one priority, I think that if we eliminate having those products available on campus then it can help us focus on school.”

More town hall meetings regarding the smoke and tobacco free initiative will be held on Oct. 23 from 4:00 to 5:00 p.m. in Weyerhauser Hall, room 111, and on Oct. 24 from 5:00 to 6:00 p.m. at 534 E. Spokane Falls Boulevard in River Room one.