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A Breath of Fresh Air

BCC’s Smoking Policy Gets Revisited

Jen Park | Layout Editor

Bergen Community College has established the Breathe Clear Campus task force in order to update the campus smoking policy. While Bergen has technically been a smoke free campus since 2007, the success of this policy is questionable. 

Taking a look around the grounds reveals a significant number of cigarette butts in various states of decomposition. According to Public Safety, the fire that welcomed students in the Pitkin Education Center to the spring semester was caused by an improperly discarded cigarette butt.

 It’s not uncommon to find students vaping in the Student Center. E-cigarettes weren’t even a consideration in 2007. Therefore, the current language of the student handbook explicitly prohibits tobacco products including smokeless tobacco but fails to address E-cigarettes. 

Task force chair, Ian Wolf, who also serves as the Coordinator of Student Conduct and Information, says that campus policy needs to progress with the times. This modernization of policy doesn’t only involve expanding the policy’s purview and cracking down on enforcement. 

The task force also hopes to increase the amount of helpful resources available to the community through health services in room HS-100. Those resources could come in the form of updated literature or potentially discounted over-the-counter cessation aids. 

It is also looking to reconsider the punitive system for infractions.  Currently, someone would be fined $25 for a first offense, $50 for a second offense, and $100 for subsequent offenses. 

This system places an additional financial burden for tobacco users who already have to pay a premium. Considering that quitting smoking is a difficult task and that tobacco companies direct marketing towards racial minorities and economically disadvantaged, increasing the burden on smokers could feed into an unjust structure of exploitation. 

The task force is turning to the best practices from other two-year colleges as well as some four-year institutions to act as a model for potential policy. They are searching for effective alternatives to fines. 

So far, they have considered community service and reflection papers. In the case that fines are retained, the task force intends to use the fine revenue to benefit cessation resources in the health center. 

The task force is highly motivated to make sure that changes in policy are driven by the community. The task force itself consists of students, staff, and faculty, some of whom are current or former tobacco users. 

The Student leader for the task force is co-chair Gabriella Setti who is heading the student led inSTALLments project. The involved students are also involved in organizations like Judiciary, Phi Theta Kappa, Health Professions, and Dental Hygiene. The project will involve displaying student written information sheets in bathroom stalls throughout the 3 campuses in order to increase community engagement. They will be updated semesterly to progress with campus discussion.

It will also be opening itself up to input from the broader campus community. Surveys will be sent out via email and administered in person to writing 101 classes. The task force is also considering a town hall where members of the community can directly express concern.

Ian Wolf also hopes that policy change could happen alongside a cultural change. If the topic is brought forward to the campus community’s awareness, Bergen can become a community where members can talk to each other about tobacco and e-cigarette use in a productive way that doesn’t boil down to morality policing.

Wolf says that ultimately, Bergen serves to prepare students for the next step in their lives, and he hopes that Bergen policy can be a part of that preparation. Whether it be in the workplace, a four-year institution, or military organization, restrictions on tobacco and e-cigarettes are likely to persist. He hopes that the resources made available at Bergen through grant-funded initiatives will allow students to succeed here and beyond.

If a community member has any ideas or concerns, they are more than welcome to email Ian Wolf at

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