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Caucus Updates

Student Caucus Initiates Discussion Surrounding Tobacco Use on Campus

by Micah Wilkins, Editor-in-Chief

Tobacco use is not a new issue on Warren Wilson campus. According to Professor John Brock who attended last week’s Student Caucus meeting, 10 years ago there was a movement to completely ban smoking on campus. The smoking huts then emerged as a sort of compromise to this proposition.

Caucus hoped to initiate yet again the discussion surrounding tobacco use on campus during the April 2 meeting. Students in attendance were asked to discuss ways in which tobacco use has affected them, and how it affects the college. Some issues surrounding tobacco use that were discussed include the excessive littering of cigarette butts around campus, and people smoking in non-smoking areas, which aggravate asthma symptoms in many people, and cause secondhand smoke.

Megan Letchworth, an Area Coordinator and the supervisor of the Health Promotions Crew, provided survey results from the Spring of 2011. According to the survey, 35% of Warren Wilson students are smokers, which is more than double the national average. However, what was more surprising to Letchworth was the skewed perception of smokers on campus; in the survey, the respondents thought that 95% of Warren Wilson students smoke, when in reality only a third of students smoke.

“That’s disheartening,” Letchworth said. “We also have a marked difference between how many students come in as non-smokers and leave smokers or tobacco users. That’s a trend in terms of college students, but I think it’s unfortunate for our community in particular.”

According to Letchworth, upon their arrival at Warren Wilson, 60 freshmen identified that they wanted to be substance-free. However, another issue that was brought up during the meeting was the social pressure created by the smoking huts. For many freshmen, these spaces are important for socializing and meeting new people.

“Last semester, the smoking huts were the place to be,” freshman Jesse Keck said during the meeting. “You’re not treated equally if you go there and don’t smoke.”

The current tobacco use policy, as it appears in the 2012-2013 Student Handbook, is “Warren Wilson College, in its efforts to create a healthier atmosphere for the campus community, strives to control exposure to secondhand smoke. It emphasizes prevention and education efforts that support non-use and that address the risks of tobacco use.” However, through the continuation of these discussions of both issues and solutions, Student Caucus may decide to reassess and propose changes to this policy.

 

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