WRITTEN BY NICOLAS FERNANDES
Brother Gregory Cellini and Health Promotions Professor Dr. Michele Montecalvo have teamed up with Julia Cuthbertson of NYC Smoke Free to try to tackle the problem of second hand smoke that has been lingering in front of St. Francis College for years.
Cellini and Montecalvo are in charge of Clear Passages, the initiative on campus that aims to decrease tobacco use and battle second hand smoke.
Clear Passages currently has a policy that prohibits smoking on the college’s grounds, which hasn’t been enforced for years.
The trio is proposing several designated smoking areas in front of campus, all of which would be far from where the students smoke now – the benches near the main entrance and handicapped ramp.
The best location as of now is the sidewalk in front of the computer lab, Cuthbertson said.
“We want to be sure however, that the smoke won’t permeate the building walls before making that decision,” Cuthbertson told SFC Today.
“That will not interfere with those who are not smokers who want to go out to sit down and enjoy a meal and enjoy conversation,” Cellini said in an interview.
Not only do the rule-breaking students prevent non-smokers from using the only outdoor leisure spot the college has, but they cause harm to students who need to use the handicapped entrance and the smoke travels through the vents and into the college’s weight room, where all of the division one athletes work out.
“I don’t mind if they smoke, but I need to get in the building,” said senior Marissa Plaia, who uses the wheelchair ramp every day.
The cigarette smoke makes the weight room so odorous sometimes – especially in the warmer months – that Head Strength and Conditioning Coach Yuki Miyazawa has to make calls to security to make sure the smokers move away from the other side of the vent.
“Cigarette smoke is not a smell you want to have coming into a weight room,” Miyazawa told SFC Today.
When Clear Passages first implemented the no smoking policy, ambassadors would go outside and tell student smokers to stand across the street instead. After a while, the storeowners got fed up with having ten to 20 youths loitering outside and blowing smoke in customers’ faces every day. After they complained, Clear Passages stopped asking students to leave school grounds with their cigarettes.
“Even though we have been against designating an area for smoking, now the process may be for everybody’s benefit,” Cellini told SFC Today.
Cuthbertson is not the biggest fan of designated smoking areas on college campuses either, but knows it would be safer than the college’s current situation.
“Ideally, a college campus will be totally tobacco-free in order to protect the entire community from secondhand smoke exposure and eliminate cigarette butt litter,” Cuthbertson said. “If that isn’t possible, it’s much better to have a mostly tobacco-free campus with a designated smoking area than to have no policy at all.”
It’s difficult to pick a spot for smoking especially since there is limited space in front of the college. No area is good for a smoking bench, but Cuthbertson can at least promise that a new one would be better the current setup.
“There is no perfect spot for a smoking area on campus,” Cuthbertson told SFC Today. “We know that the current location where smokers gather is not working.”
Cellini and Montecalvo — who also run the annual Great American Smokeout — want to reduce both second hand smoke and the amount of smokers at SFC in what they refer to as a “Franciscan way,” being kind and respectful about it because the smokers are good people.
“Smokers have created a community outside,” Montecalvo said. “For better or for worse it’s who they love and care about.”
Cellini wants to make sure they work with the smokers rather than against them.
“It’s not an I, but a we, it’s not mine, but ours,” Cellini said, echoing a Franciscan saying.