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Smoking Ban Starts Tuesday at Howard Community College

School officials cite a survey for banning smoking, tobacco.

It was about two months ago that Kyle McIntosh first heard about the impending smoke-free and tobacco-free campus laws at Howard Community College. 

The ruling will go into effect May 31, the same day that the 19-year-old Clarksville resident begins his first day of summer classes at the school. 

"I've smoked for about five years, but it doesn't really affect me, just because I can go in between classes without smoking," said McIntosh, speaking one afternoon between puffs of his cigarette. "So that means that I would be good for a couple of hours. And if worse comes to worst, I can just go across the street. So I'm good."

McIntosh spoke while sitting in one of the campus' few designated smoking areas outside of Duncan Hall on the campus' main quadrangle, one which features 12 round metal tables that seat four people each. 

Upon each of the tables is an approximately eight-inch-tall metal bucket into which smokers can extinguish their cigarettes. 

Flanking the area are signs which read "No Smoking Beyond This Point, Please Deposit Cigarettes In The Proper Receptacles."

But on May 31, those signs will become obsolete and be gone, something that 21-year-old Shannon Willing of Ellicott City is happy about.

"Some of the areas that were designated smoking areas were kind of in-between where people would walk normally. And if you don't smoke, then the smoke would be right in front of your face," said Willing, a non-smoker.

"There is one [smoking area] that is right in front of the English building, and that smoke was always right in front of your face," said Willing. "So I think that it's a good idea to have some restrictions on it, but I don't know if it's necessary to have the option fully taken away."

School Surveyed Students, Faculty, Staff

Citing a survey that was taken last year, Director of Student Life Llatetra Brown said that 78 percent of the HCC students and 88 of the school's faculty, staff and employees favored the move to a smoke-free campus. Brown and a committee of about a dozen smokers and non-smokers, including one student, discussed and determined the policy.

"It is my understanding that the president had been approached by various members of the constituency, including students, about going smoke-free or having a smoke-free campus. However, as with many other organizations, you want to really gauge that," said Brown.

"It was through the response rate to the surveys that we determined that most people were in favor of moving toward a smoke-free campus."

But senior psychology major Melissa Morrison, 21, is a non-smoker who believes the move is "a little bit excessive."

"My dad smokes, and he's always gone outside. I think the fact that he did go outside showed that he was willing to not put us at risk," said Morrison. "I think that it's correct to ban smoking on the inside of buildings, but I think that it's a little bit too much to say that you can't smoke outside. So those people who do smoke should be able to do so."

Following the Example of Other Colleges

That's not the assertion of Basmah Nada, a 16-year-old non-smoker who was the lone student to serve on the committee. 

"I actually do have two of my close friends who smoke, and they both go to HCC. I've been like, 'May 31, that's it for you.' But they actually don't get offended. They weren't as bothered as maybe I would have expected them to be," said Nada.

"Before the campus was smoke-free, one of my friends who doesn't smoke was telling me that she was bothered by the smoke in the designated areas," said Nada. "But the ones who smoke, they've been, like, 'Yeah, we knew it was going to come sooner or later.' So people in general have been expecting it. I don't see many people getting upset over it."

In becoming a smoke-free campus, HCC joins other Maryland institutions such as Towson and Salisbury universities as well as Carroll, Frederick and Montomgery community colleges, which is not a problem as far as McIntosh is concerned.

"I've been to schools where you can't smoke anywhere within two miles of the buildings, and where there was only a certain little block or circle that you could smoke in," said McIntosh. "So if you were caught smoking outside of it, it's a $5 fine. If you have more than one fine, then it starts to build up and you pay more."

Enforcement and Punishment

HCC will issue warnings first, then a $50 fine and, last, a violation of the student code of conduct, as the successive penalties for those who resist or fail to adhere to the rules imposed by the ban, said Ken McGlynn, HCC's director of security services, who will oversee the policy's enforcement.

"We've developed a plan that is similar to that of other schools. There will be signs posted about the campus being smoke-free, and there will be literature passed out before the fall. We'll do the best that we can through security to notify that there is no smoking," said McGlynn, a three-year HCC fixture after having retired following 26 years as a Howard County police officer.

"Basically, I foresee the first couple of weeks that there will be a grace period and transitional period for people to realize that it's a smoke-free, tobacco-free campus, and we'll have to basically tell people to stop. If there is non-compliance or the individual's behavior continues, then it's a violation of the code of conduct, which will mean the issuance of a $50 citation for smoking," said McGlynn. 

"This is not a money-making deal, and our officers will be using discretion," said McGlynn. "The whole purpose of this is for a better, healthier campus."

Having quit smoking about a year ago, 19-year-old Laurel resident Erica Bishoff believes, as does McGlynn, that there will be those who will try to resist the ban. 

"I think that a lot of people are going to be really mad about it because there's actually a lot of smokers here that I've noticed. There are probably going to be people who will still try to continue to smoke around certain areas," said Bishoff.

"But the smoking bothers people because it's kind of a stinky, nasty habit," said Bishoff. "So I think the ban serves a good purpose. It will keeep the campus cleaner. So I think that it's a good thing."

For McIntosh, the ban won't make that much of a difference. 

"My friend who first told me about it ... he said that it's going to suck," said McIntosh, "But he also said, 'You know what? I can deal with it.' "

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