Grant Results in Task Force Exploring Possibility of Smoke-Free PCC Campus

Warren Building cupola on a cloudy day with "Archives" written across the top of the photo.

WINTERVILLE—A $7,500-grant is giving a Pitt Community College task force the opportunity to explore the possibility of a smoke-free campus while raising awareness of the health risks posed by tobacco products.

According to PCC Student Support Manager/PCC Global Director Amelia Martin, funding from Truth Initiative – a nonprofit public health organization dedicated to eliminating tobacco use – is supporting “efforts to advocate to the student body, faculty and staff for a smoke-free PCC in the future.”

Martin is heading the committee tasked with ensuring the campus community is aware of the consequences of smoking and secondhand smoke in addition to the benefits of stopping tobacco use.

“The goal of the grant is to get enough support from the student body to present a smoke-free policy to the PCC Board of Trustees for consideration,” she said. “We will determine this support by surveying faculty, staff and students in October to see if they are in support of a smoke-free policy.”

In the meantime, Martin said the committee would utilize a marketing campaign aimed at first-time freshmen that addresses the adverse effects secondhand smoke has on campus as a whole. She said the campaign would include a series of YouTube videos created by students that spotlight the dangers.

In addition to the financial support provided through the grant, PCC and other awardees will receive technical assistance through webinars, learning communities, and one-on-one consultations facilitated by Truth Initiative.

Previously known as the American Legacy Foundation, Truth Initiative was created through the Tobacco Master Settlement Agreement that resolved a 1998 lawsuit between major U.S. tobacco companies and 46 states, the District of Columbia and five U.S. territories. The organization’s mission is to “speak, seek and spread the truth about tobacco through education, tobacco-control research and policy studies, and community activism and engagement.”

On its website, Truth Initiative states that support for 100 percent smoke-free and tobacco-free policies on college campuses has skyrocketed in recent years. The number of colleges and universities with 100 percent smoke or tobacco-free policies tripled from 446 campuses in 2010 to 1,475 campuses in 2016. Many of the policies have been adopted at four-year universities.

In order to reach more community college students and employees, Truth Initiative created a grant program and made funding available to institutions, like Pitt, that do not currently have 100 percent smoke-free campus policies in place.

Truth Initiative reports it has already awarded $274,730 in grants to 54 public community colleges in 25 states across the country. Those campuses serve 586,386 students and reach nearly 45,000 faculty and staff.

While the PCC campus is not entirely smoke-free, the college does follow a policy enacted in 2011 that restricts smoking to designated areas, such as gazebos and smoking benches. Prior to 2011, smoking at Pitt was permitted outside of campus buildings, as long as smokers were 25 feet or further from building entrances.

Upon adopting the current smoking policy at PCC, administrators said the regulation was the result of feedback from a student and employee survey regarding smoking on campus. PCC President G. Dennis Massey explained at the time that the policy was not created to ban smoking on campus entirely but to cut down on the negative effects of secondhand smoke.