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Gaston College campuses now tobacco-free

SARAH LOWERY
Staff Writer

 
With the new year comes changes for Gaston College. As of Jan. 1, all of the school’s campuses, including Lincolnton’s, are now tobacco-free.
The college’s Student Government Association pushed for the initiative, becoming one of roughly 30 tobacco-free campuses of the North Carolina community college system, according to a press release sent out by the two-year college.
After a campuswide committee made up of representatives from each campus was formed in 2010, students were surveyed for their opinions on establishing a tobacco-free policy. The survey found that a majority of students considered the idea favorable, said the release.
The Gaston College Board of Trustees approved the policy in May 2011 for the Kimbrell, Lincoln and Dallas campuses. The new policy specifically prohibits tobacco use of any kind on school grounds, including parking lots and inside vehicles, by students, faculty and visitors.
“The health of the faculty and staff and everybody at the campus is the first reason for doing this,” Dr. Sharon Starr, dean of Health Education at Gaston College, stated in the release.
“All the community colleges that surround us are tobacco-free. We felt, health-wise, and for the future of the campus, that this is something we needed to do.”
Violators of the new policy will be subject to disciplinary action as outlined in the Student Code of Conduct, with employees also subject to the Employee Standards of Conduct.
The release states that the initiative is not asking anyone to quit smoking. Instead, the college “wants people to respect the policy, which gives nonsmokers the chance to come to college and learn in a healthy, comfortable and productive environment,” as stated in the release.
However, Starr added that the implementation of the policy has inspired some to express interest in quitting their habit. And, for those so inspired, they are in luck.
Over the next few months, Gaston College will offer free monthly cessation classes for students and faculty that hope to quit smoking or are having trouble adjusting to the new policy. Sponsored by the American Cancer Society, the classes will be provided on each campus and will take place over various two-day periods, with each session lasting two hours.
“There has been a lot of thought put into thinking about the students, faculty and staff and what it means for the campus to go tobacco-free,” Starr said. “Addiction to tobacco is very difficult to handle and break. It’s not easy. We knew we couldn’t automatically make a decision and implement it without some preparation and offering some assistance.”

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