WOU in the news: Western’s Campus To Go Tobacco-Free

Story published in the Polk County Itemizer-Observer
By Emily Mentzer

MONMOUTH — Stephanie Delker wanted to improve campus health at Western Oregon University.

Delker, a senior in community health, tackled a project with teachers and fellow students to make WOU’s campus tobacco-free by fall 2015.

The tobacco-free policy was signed by then President Mark Weiss on May 18.

“There were a lot of questions about the proposed policy, especially regarding enforcement,” Delker said. “Once the policy passed and an email was sent out to students, I experienced overwhelming support.”

Community health students led the efforts to eliminate tobacco on campus via a grassroots campaign, polling students, faculty and staff.

“Most of the responses we got were positive, which I was surprised about because this is a sensitive topic at times,” said Savannah Phillips, senior in community health. “I think overall everyone wants a healthy and safe environment; however, there were a few outliers that gave some push back, but not a huge uproar.”

Mackenzie Lafferty, senior, said she was motivated to help make WOU tobacco free by the “countless times I have walked down the sidewalks on campus and had to change my route to class because of a smoke trail.”

Even in the designated smoking areas, second-hand smoke is difficult to avoid, she added.

“That didn’t seem fair to me,” Lafferty said. “I really value clean air and find it unfair that individuals feel their desire to smoke is more important than someone’s right to clean air.”

Senior Elizabeth Perez Hernandez agreed.

“It felt uncomfortable knowing I was breathing that same air and my health might have been affected,” she said about walking near people smoking.

The group of students presented its findings to boards and members of campus, including student, staff and faculty senates, along with the Residential Hall Association.

The policy initially will be enforced on an educational level.

“There will be reminders and educational awareness,” Lafferty said. “But ultimately the enforcement with penalties will begin the same term the policy is enacted.”

Faculty and staff will be referred to human resources, Lafferty added, and students will work with student conduct in the same manner as they do with alcohol use.

The policy applies to anyone on Western’s campus, including visitors. Smoking in personal vehicles on campus also is not allowed.

Tobacco Not Welcome

• Western Oregon University enacted a new policy forbiding the use of tobacco in any way on any campus-owned property. The policy extends to visitors and contractors, students, staff and faculty, and takes effect in September 2015.

• Efforts to help WOU go tobacco-free were led by a group of community health students and faculty. Students surveyed fellow students, staff and faculty, and the majority agreed on the tobacco-free route.

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