Almost two years after a no-smoking policy went into effect, individuals are still butting heads over the matter.
“I think it’s bullshit,” said an OCCC staff member who wished to remain anonymous. “I’m not a smoker but I think it’s too much government involvement.”
Student Jacoby Bond, a nursing student and former smoker, said smoking is a right. “ …But [on campus] it’s a privilege.” Since Aug. 1, 2011, the entire OCCC campus has been tobacco free, with a policy forbidding the use of all tobacco products anywhere on campus.
The policy is in compliance of an executive order signed by Gov. Mary Fallin, prohibiting the use of all tobacco products in certain public locations, including college campuses. The policy prohibits the use of cigarettes, smokeless tobacco such as e-cigarettes, cigars, hookah, snuff and all other forms of tobacco.
Despite the policy and an estimated total of $933.35 spent on tobacco-free signs that were paid for by the City-County Health Department, individuals continue to violate the policy by using tobacco products on campus.
Police Chief James Fitzpatrick said several hundred verbal warnings have been issued, but no citations.
“It’s not the number-one priority,” Fitzpatrick said. “If we’re doing something else, we’re not going to stop that to go over there.
“Warnings are verbal,” he said. “Currently we don’t have a process. I’m looking at that because I want to get a better record system of people that have been warned.
“I want to solidify that to where we can, very quickly, determine whether or not we have contacted that person previously regarding their use of tobacco on campus.”
Tobacco users who have been caught have not given the police department any problems, Fitzpatrick said.
“Nobody has ever given us any grief over it,” Fitzpatrick said. “They put the cigarette out, no questions asked.”
Fitzpatrick said if someone is reported smoking on campus, an officer will be dispatched to the location within 10 to 15 minutes of the call.
“We’ll try to send somebody by there,” he said. “Once in awhile, by the time we get there, they’re still there.
“Most of the time there’s not anyone there any longer. Our response time is pretty quick.”
Smoking classes designed to help students, faculty and staff quit smoking were offered prior to the law going into effect, said Mary Turner, learning support specialist.
She said no one attended the classes.
Turner said she, Professional Development Director Penny Hampton, and Student Life Director Erin Logan underwent training to become certified cessation coaches.
“A few spoke individually with me or with Erin but they did not want to be identified as smokers,” Turner said.
“Erin and I have mainly provided print information about Oklahoma’s 1-800-QUITNOW program or services through area agencies. That has seemed to be more comfortable for students.”
The closest location that allows public smoking is Dollar General Store located at 4515 S May Ave, across the street from the college.
Fitzpatrick said individuals who witness a person violating the tobacco free policy on campus are encouraged to avoid confrontation.
Fitzpatrick said students, faculty and staff attempting to enforce the policy is a bad idea.
“It’s just not a good thing for them to try to enforce,” he said. “I’d much rather that person be in uniform where they can readily identify themselves as an officer.
“We also caution them not to get confrontational. Make the statement that it’s a smoke-free campus and just keep on going.
“We appreciate any efforts people make to enforce it,” he said. “I don’t want someone to wind up in a confrontation with an individual because not everyone here is a student.”
Fitzpatrick said the policy isn’t easy for everyone to abide by.
“It might be tough to get used to but it’s happening nationwide,” he said.
“It’s something that if they haven’t prepped for by now, they certainly need to adjust their behaviors to be prepared for.”