OCC imposes fines on smokers who violate policy

Sitting on a campus bench outside the tobacco-free zone, with cigarette lit, Katlin Gervasie said she agrees with the decision to impose fines on violators of the smoking policy at Onondaga Community College.

"I'm okay with it," the North Syracuse resident said. "I can understand why they would want to do that. I mean, there are people here with disabilities, people who are pregnant and they don't smoke; they don't want to be around it so I can understand that. Absolutely."

Four months pregnant herself, Gervasie said she is planning to quit.

"It's very difficult for me," she said. "That's like my first cigarette in three days. I'm really trying hard not to smoke."

The Smoking Cessation Committee at Onondaga, comprised of faculty, staff, students, the Onondaga County Health Department and a representative from the American Cancer Society, has been in place for more than a year. Its goal is to promote a healthier campus environment. How? For one, the tobacco use policy restricts smoking and tobacco use to parking lot areas that are at least 50 feet away from all campus buildings. Smoking and tobacco use in all other areas of campus is prohibited.

"[The committee's] role is to oversee the implementation of the smoking policy, cessation classes, communication, etc.," said Amy Kremenek, director of media relations.

But not all people abide by the rules -- faculty, staff and students alike have been violators.

"It was a policy but it also needed to have an enforcement component," Kremenek said. "We needed to have a mechanism to let people know that we take this very seriously. The goal is not to write tickets, the goal is to get people to comply."

For the noncompliant, the tiered system goes like this:

For all employees, a warning ticket is given to first offenders along with a letter explaining the violation and implications of further violations; a $25 fine is imposed the second time; third and subsequent violations call for $50 fines.

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