When given the choice between healthy or unhealthy, the choice should be obvious. Most people know that smoking cigarettes causes many diseases, including cancer, emphysema, and heart disease to name a few. In an effort to promote healthy living, the Maricopa Community Colleges created the BreatheEasy Initiative. BreatheEasy requires all Maricopa Community College campuses to be 100 percent smoke and tobacco free. This initiative came into effect July 1, 2012.
The main purpose of BreatheEasy is to promote a healthy environment for both students and staff. “According to medical research, there has never been a set amount of second hand smoke that is okay for your health,” says Estrella Mountain Community College Fitness & Wellness Manager Lyle Bartelt. “We’re not saying anyone has to quit smoking although it is a pretty strong statement to tobacco users to quit. Being on campus for long hours might be a good environment to quit all together.”
Many students feel BreatheEasy is beneficial and provides for a cleaner campus. EMCC student and non-smoker Derek Stephens says, “I think it benefits the majority of the students and faculty who do not smoke.” He also adds that people on campus who don’t smoke shouldn’t have to be exposed to it if they don’t want to be.
While the initiative may be enforcing good habits, some students feel BreatheEasy might be a little too strict. “I really feel like they are taking it to a more serious level than it really needs to be. If there was a designated smoking area, I feel it would compensate instead of saying absolutely no smoking on campus,” says EMCC student and smoker Hillary Foulk. At this point in time, no designated smoking areas have been provided for smokers on campus. Parking lots, courtyards and rooftops are all smoke-free.
With BreatheEasy now on track, one might wonder what the BreatheEasy organizers’ desired goals are for the campaign in the long run. Lyle Bartelt, who also works as the Tobacco Cessation Specialist at EMCC, says, “We hope for overall less tobacco use. We offer workshops for those who want to quit, as well as counseling, both of which are free. We also have The Great American Smokeout.” The Great American Smokeout is a national annual event sponsored by the American Cancer Society where tobacco users are urged to make plans to break the habit.
2012 has been the first year for BreatheEasy. So far the campaign has been successful in keeping smoke and other tobaccos off campus. Lyle Bartelt says, “I wish we didn’t need the policy. In order to protect non-tobacco users, it’s an important move for our District.”