Butler Community College Considers Snuffing Out Tobacco Use on Campus

By: Jason Tarr Email
By: Jason Tarr Email

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Butler County Community College could soon be the biggest college in the state of Kansas to ban smoking and tobacco use on its campuses.

"In my opinion, in the next three to five years you're going to see all colleges and universities ban tobacco," said Bill Rinkenbaugh, Butler College Vice President of Student Services.

So far, only about a dozen small colleges in Kansas have said no to tobacco.

The current policy at Butler is you may not smoke inside campus buildings, but you may smoke outside as long as you are 25 feet away.

"Tobacco is a health issue, it's an environmental issue, it's a respect issue," Rinkenbaugh said.

The Board of Trustees requested school leaders investigate the possibility of a ban following the board's annual review of school policies last summer, Rinkenbaugh said.

Butler College created a task force of students, faculty, and staff, smokers and non-smokers, to shape the policy and how it would be implemented.

That task force has met every two weeks for the past few months. Last Tuesday, it presented its findings for the first time to the Board of Trustees.

"If the policy would be approved, the plan would be to implement this starting with the fall semester," Rinkenbaugh said.

To implement the new policy, Rinkenbaugh says he estimates it would cost between $25,000 and $30,000. That includes the cost for signage, communications, and programs to help students quit smoking.

Rinkenbaugh says the board could approve the plan as early as March. But even with the approval, there are many steps to be taken before they can put the plan into action.

"We would still have a feedback period from all employees," Rinkenbaugh.

Students expect some on campus to have negative feedback.

"It's just a freedom issue (to them)," student Derrick Davis said. "But it's pretty dangerous."

But despite some students possibly pushing back against the policy, Rinkenbaugh says the trend of going tobacco-free isn't slowing down.

"You will see more and more institutions instituting this same kind of policy," Rinkenbaugh said.

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