The last few years, there’s been a good old conflict of freedoms going—been between those who want the freedom to smoke, and those who want the freedom to not breathe in smoke. This debate led to five public forums last year, a student led committee (who declined to comment) and culminated in Hampshire’s new, much-bemoaned, smoking policy. The policy’s main feature is the creation of designated smoking areas around campus, with everywhere else being smoke-free. But the smoking areas weren’t built before classes began, leading to many wondering where they were or if they even existed.
“The implementation has been less than ideal,” acknowledged Dean of Students Byron McCrae.
Some students took matters into their own hands, with a pointed collection of ashtrays around a bench in Prescott. “I appreciate and respect that as an artistic response to the policy,” Byron said, “but there will be gazebo-like structures.”
Said structures are going up over the next few days: there is to be one per housing area, as well as one near the Arts Village. The designated areas were an idea brought forth by the student committee—a way for the administration to meet them halfway. The administration’s long term goal is to transition to being totally smoke-free over the next three(ish) years, perhaps by gradually cutting down the number of designated areas, as other colleges have done.
The motivation behind the proposed ban, Byron says, was not external funding (a popular rumor) but students’ health: “One of the first student government [Editor’s Note: Yes, we used to have one of those] meetings I went to there were like fifty people there and they were talking about the pros and cons of becoming smoke-free. So it really did come up in our strategic planning process, and students in particular… wanted to know that we cared about their health. The more students believe we are a healthy campus, the more likely they are to be satisfied with Hampshire and to be satisfied with social life at Hampshire… we didn’t ask them about smoking, to be fair.”
Last year, the Wellness Center got a grant from the American College Health Association. This grant went to the training of “peer educators”—students taught to help other students quit.
The rest of the money went to “smoking cessation” supplies: nicotine patches, nicotine gum, and a lot of lollipops with notes attached, telling students to get in touch with the Wellness Center. But after Jordan Perry’s resignation last summer, the box has been left sitting in a corner of the Center for Feminisms, under the tentative jurisdiction of Emily Rimmer. She says that they’re there if students want them.
Health and Counseling is also offering support for future ex-smokers. Sara Aierstuck is hoping that they can get at some of the root causes by helping students with things such as anxiety and depression. There are also medical options: most health insurance will cover two ninety-day subscriptions for nicotine patches, for example, which Health Services can prescribe.
And if marijuana becomes legal in the state of Massachusetts? “You really shouldn’t be smoking it,” Byron said. But how that would look on campus hasn’t been formally discussed.