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Health Fair helps COD students live with smoking ban

PVanduerm from Naperville signs banner support Tobacco free campus during tobacco free health fair College Dupage Tuesday August 28 2012.

Pat Vanduerm from Naperville signs a banner in support of a Tobacco free campus during the tobacco free health fair at College of Dupage on Tuesday, August 28, 2012. | Brian Powers~Sun-Times Media

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Updated: September 30, 2012 6:16AM

Carol Stream resident Melanie Fischer is a student at the College of DuPage who is breathing a little easier these days.

Nearly a month ago, the school launched a campus-wide smoke out, the same kind of initiative found in restaurants, bars, and so many other public buildings where smokers can no longer light up. The policy prohibits the use of tobacco and tobacco-related products on all COD premises and in all college-owned vehicles.

Tuesday morning, the college followed up on the ban that began Aug. 6 with a Tobacco Free Health Resource Fair that was held from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. and later from 5 to 7 p.m. in the Student Services Center atrium.

Fischer thinks both the smoking ban and the health fair are good ideas.

“Whenever I would walk out of the building the past few years, there would be this cloud of smoke as you came through the doors,” Fischer said. “I hated it and even though there were signs saying people had to be 25 feet away, there were always violations.”

College officials offered the fair to help those looking to kick the habit. It was designed to help smokers learn more about the health benefits of quitting as well as how to manage stress related to giving up smoking.

“I think the purpose of this fair is to educate people about our new policy as well as offer them some of the resources they’ll need if people choose to become tobacco free,” said Chuck Steele, manager of student life at COD. “I realize there have been smoking bans and health-related presentations before, but a lot of people don’t know how to access the resources available.”

Steele believes the non-smoking policy has been received very well overall and that the college is happy about joining nearly 700 other colleges across the country who have initiated similar bans.

“I spoke at the student orientation about the new policy and there were no complaints,” he said. “Some of the smokers even commented that they did not see this new policy as a problem.”

Students on campus Tuesday expressed mixed views about the policy. Jose Samayoa of Elgin said a lot of his friends are smokers and will be frustrated by the inability now “to just chill.”

“I’m not a smoker, but I can see people having to leave campus now and I hope they’ll come back for their classes,” he said.

Naperville resident Greg DeNuccio said the new policy “would be hard to enforce” but was still worthwhile.

“People that want to smoke are going to find a way, but I personally find it offensive,” he said. “I went to high school at Naperville North and I would think a lot of people from around here came from places where there wasn’t any smoking so people shouldn’t be surprised.”

Naperville’s Charmaine Pace called smoking “a dirty habit that also pollutes” and said she believed the heath fair could have a positive impact.

“Being healthy and the whole wellness thing is ‘hip’ these days, so I think people look at this as something being cool that they’ll want to do,” Pace said.

Not everyone Tuesday embraced the health fair or the smoking ban including Stephanie Turzinski of Winfield, who said she is currently trying to quit smoking.

“People don’t realize that smoking is also a social thing and I’ve met a lot of people from bumming a cigarette or a light,” she said. “Personally, I think the college is doing this just to get the money they’ll receive from issuing tickets. The health fair might help some.”

Violators were easy to spot Tuesday including Manny Miranda of Addison, who stood 25 feet outside the Student Resource Center Tuesday morning and casually puffed away.

“I know about the new policy but I’ve been a student here the past few years and we’ve always been able to smoke,” Miranda said. “If I got a ticket, I guess I’d be bummed but this is sort of a habit of being able to smoke outside the building.”

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