TCL's tobacco ban opens way to lifestyle changes

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Danielle Kessler, a student working on her advanced nursing degree, says the new no-smoking policy at Technical College of the Lowcountry will help her to finally stop smoking. PHOTO BY GWYNETH J. SAUNDERS

After 25 years of smoking cigarettes, Danielle Kessler has plenty of incentive to give them up.

Not only are her husband, 8-year-old son and mother working on her, but now the 41-year-old licensed practical nurse is pursuing an advanced registered nurse program at the Technical College of the Lowcountry New River Campus - which has just instituted a campus-wide no-smoking policy.

"All of our clinical sites are non-smoking facilities and with the school going no-smoking, that's where I spend most of my days," Kessler said. "I've been needing to quit for a long time, but this is forcing me to take that step."

TCL adopted a no-smoking policy Dec. 1 prohibiting the use of cigarettes, electronic cigarettes, pipes, cigars, chewing tobacco and tobacco products of any kind.

According to Rodney Adams, associate vice president for student affairs, there were several reasons to implement the new policy.

"TCL was looking at doing this for some time to promote healthy lifestyles," Adams said. "It was not initiated by any one person, but more of a collective of people."

The college had an opportunity in 2016 to submit a proposal for a Truth Initiative Grant that would lend support for helping colleges become completely tobacco free, he added. When TCL received the grant, they were able to put measures in place to have the campus become smoke and tobacco-free.

The Truth Initiative was formerly known as the American Legacy Foundation, established as part of the 1998 Master Settlement Agreement between major United States tobacco companies and 46 states, the District of Columbia and five territories.

According to its website, it is the largest American "non-profit public health organization dedicated to making tobacco use a thing of the past."

For TCL, moving to a completely tobacco free campus took some time, said Adams.

"We did not want to change the policy before we could let people know that the change was going to come about. We made sure that information was presented to our TCL family and we provided them a person to which they could go if they wanted information or help with tobacco cessation," he said. "Once all of these things aligned, we were able to move forward and present the best date possible for implementation."

Finding anyone on the New River campus who smoked was almost a treasure hunt, with the very few students and instructors who admitted to smoking declining to comment but Kessler, who commutes from Effingham County in Georgia to the school, said the ban will have a big impact on her.

"I enjoy [smoking], but [stopping] will make me healthier," she said. "I've called my general practitioner to get the medicine and while we are on break I'll begin to work on cessation. This is just the swift kick in the hiney I needed to get incentive to stop."

TCL is not the only local campus that is smoke-free. University of South Carolina Beaufort maintains a smoke-free policy, said Kerry Jarvis, who handles public relations for the Beaufort County campuses.

"This applies to all USC campuses. We went tobacco free in 2014," Jarvis said, "and we do not sell any tobacco items in our campus stores."

Each USC campus has an individual policy but the entire system is smoke-free, Copeland said.

USCB's policy lists specific guidelines for enforcing the no-smoking policy, but the goal of the TCL's policy is voluntary compliance.

"Compliance must go hand-in-hand with compassion and it is going to take everyone to make this successful," Adams said. "Inform people of the policy with courtesy and respect. It is not the goal to make this punitive with fines or warnings."

For Kessler, there is no question about compliance and said not smoking will affect more than her personal health, which is a priority.

"You don't want to go into a patient's room who has lung cancer and smell like cigarettes," she said. "It's unprofessional."

Gwyneth J. Saunders is a veteran journalist and freelance writer living in Bluffton.

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