The Progress’ March 19, 2015 editorial entitled “Tobacco-free has failed and we all know it” presents an unfair picture of EKU’s considerable efforts to change a tobacco culture. Changing any culture, especially one that is resistant to change, takes time. But it is important to recognize that there already has been success. We know that some smokers have quit, others continue to try to quit, many are now protected against second-hand smoke and still others have had their risk of cancer and heart disease reduced by EKU’s Tobacco-Free Policy.

Let’s cut right to the chase. Tobacco use on campus has significantly decreased since the policy went into effect, and yes, our campus community still has more work to do. While we agree with Mr. Klapheke’s assessment that the purpose of the policy is to inspire healthier lifestyles, efforts to enforce the policy have not been easy as Mr. Klapheke suggests. Student ambassadors patrol the campus politely, reminding violators of the Tobacco-Free Policy, but are subjected to smoke being blown in their faces, harassment, ridicule and verbal threats.

A total of 35 student violators were reported to the Office of Student Rights and Responsibilities during the period of August 20, 2014 to March 13, 2015. Many more could have been. Violators who do not adhere to the policy are required by virtue of being a registered student at EKU to show their ID to ambassadors. Few comply. These violators were subjected to the sanctions included under policy enforcement (see below).

In the short one semester that the policy has been in effect, a small minority of smokers have vandalized or destroyed every “Tobacco-Free” sign on campus. Additionally, many of the on-campus smokers have shown disrespect for the campus beautiful with litter and to their fellow students by polluting our immediate atmosphere with cancer-causing chemicals.

Mr. Klapheke’s words also undermine the efforts of the many students, faculty and staff who have been spurred by the policy to try and quit smoking and the many more who choose to comply with the policy. As any smoker knows, smoking is a difficult habit to break, but a tobacco-free campus supports those who want to try.

The Colonels Kick Butt Team commends the many students, faculty and staff who do adhere and those who support the policy by reminding smokers that they are not in compliance. It would be easy to say, “Why should I comply when, as Mr. Klapheke points out, ‘the tobacco-free policy holds no respect amongst [many] students.’”

The Tobacco-Free Policy states that all persons and members of the University community share in the responsibility for adhering to the policy and bringing it to the attention of others. This means students, faculty, custodians, office staff, administrators, campus police and everyone else who calls EKU home. It will take the collective efforts of us all, not just a few ambassadors, to see Eastern become a truly tobacco-free campus. I urge you do your part to help change this tobacco culture to one that embraces a healthy, respectful environment for all its constituents. We too love Eastern. To learn more about how you can help, visit the Tobacco-Free website at http://tobaccofree.eku.edu.

Jack Rutherford

Professor of Exercise
and Sport Science