What changes would you like to see at Bellevue College? For the student leaders and faculty behind the effort “Breathe Easy Bellevue College (BEBC),” funded by grants from the Truth Initiative, it is the campus’ transition to being no-smoking. Current Bellevue College policy, as governed by the Washington State Legislature, says that smoking, vaping or the use of tobacco is “permitted only in designated locations.” The campus map shows that this takes the form of “smoking shelters,” at least one of which can be found outside near each building.
Over the course of their work, the BEBC effort has collected interviews and publicized data arguing that smoking, vaping and the use of any tobacco products should be banned on campus. BEBC student leaders conducted interviews with a variety of Bellevue College-affiliated individuals for the campaign. They talked to the mother of a 16-year-old Running Start student, who said her son had developed a smoking habit after his first semester on campus, due to exposure to smoking. They interviewed another student who has a respiratory and autoimmune disease and is in lethal danger from smoke inhalation. “If she’s exposed to smoke,” Professor Reza Forough says, “why should she or a pregnant student need to risk their lives or the life of their unborn child so someone can smoke a cigarette on a college campus?” The Breathe Easy Bellevue College campaign has also brought to light sobering statistics about the dangers of smoking. Infographics made by BEBC have spread awareness of the fact that “similarly, their data emphasizes how widespread no-smoking college campuses already are. The student leader of BEBC Kate Goldstein says, “We think, based on the research, and based on the surveys we have conducted with the students, [a non-smoking policy at Bellevue College] is very reasonable! Well over half of college campuses in the US have a non-smoking policy.”
Though smoking and tobacco products have always been permitted in designated areas on the BC campus, there have been unsuccessful pushes in the past to change the policy. Goldstein adds, “Bellevue College tried to make it non-smoking around 10 years ago, but the policy was stopped by a faculty member, who unfortunately has since passed away of smoking-related health issues … Breathe Easy Bellevue College wants Bellevue College to stop enabling the use of this known cancer-causing agent. We have rewritten the policy for a proposal, and it is going to make rounds for approval, hopefully, be voted on, and hopefully be passed in time for the 2024 school year and beyond.” The process of getting a no-smoking policy fully ratified is no easy feat, however. Breathe Easy Bellevue College has partnered with the housing department, the counseling center, upwards of eighty student volunteers, and numerous public health professionals who will be attending a Town Hall in January to get the policy passed. An infographic explaining this process that was shared by BEBC says, “The proposal is shared with all councils, an advisory board is appointed, the public is invited to a town hall, and the policy is voted on by the college’s assembly, then approved by the president’s cabinet, and finally, the president.”
What will the campus look like if a no-smoking policy does get passed? Breathe Easy Bellevue College is advocating for an equity-focused no-smoking policy, which will not administer fines to individuals caught smoking, vaping or using tobacco on campus, instead using palm cards, among other methods, to remind offenders of the policy and direct them towards facts and cessation resources. The rollout of this proposed policy would also include updated signage and training for safety teams.
In the meantime, Breathe Easy Bellevue College is using its resources to distribute “quit kits,” including mints, tea, fidget toys, and more, as well as hosting events. On November 17 from 12:00 pm to 1:00 pm, BEBC is hosting a virtual screening of the film “Black Lives, Black Lungs” with a Q&A with the director. Everyone is welcome to attend this free event. If you have any questions or comments about the Breathe Easy Bellevue College initiative, email email@example.com.