With the smoking huts serving as shelter for vending machines, students get sodas while smoking around campus. Photo by Zac Santanello.
Soda and candy vending machines are now occupying three old smoking huts that were moved after Mercer County Community College’s new smoke-free policy was enacted January 1, 2013.
Dr. Diane Campbell, Dean of Student and Academic Services, said in a recent interview with the VOICE that the decision on the smoke-free campus was made with “student’s health in mind.”
Dr. Campbell also explained that the reason for the additional sugar around campus was because “students asked for the soda machines long before the smoke-free policy began.”
When asked if the smoking ban would be lifted if there was a student outcry for it, Dr. Campbell replied, “I don’t know. I don’t think there would be a majority of people enough who would want the smoke and litter on campus.”
Not all Mercer employees think soda vending machines are a way to better the campus.
Mercer Fitness Center coordinator Mike DeAngelis addressed his concern to the VOICE, saying that “There’s too many vending machines already. A healthier choice could have been made by placing water instead of soda. I believe that the purpose for the vending machines is to make money. To generate revenue.”
Both smoking and the consumption of sugar present serious risks to our health. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) 19 percent, or 43.8 million American adults, smoke, and more than one thousand people are killed every day by cigarettes.
CDC lists obesity as a contributing factor to heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes and certain types of cancer. Further, CDC statistics show that more Americans are obese (35.7 percent) than smoke.
A recent VOICE survey of 20 Mercer students shows 75 percent of the surveyed feel healthier since the school went smoke free.
The survey also indicates that 55 percent of students have witnessed smoking on campus since the ban, and that 65 percent said they have not seen anyone use the new vending machines.
First year Criminal Justice major Nick Martin stopped smoking last semester. Martin believes that the smoke-free policy has had good results. “Smoking has decreased because of the policy, and soda machines are a good replacement since it’s better than smoking.”
Vanessa Nilsson, second semester Business Administration major, said “I am not a smoker myself, so I don’t really care about what the policy says.”
In regards to the new use of the smoking huts, Nilsson disapproves of the initiative. “I do believe that Mercer made a wrong decision with the soda since it isn’t good for you. They should have added something more healthy, such as healthy snacks.”
Elise Delporte, a smoker and second year Hotel Restaurant and Institution Management major, also sees financial motives at the heart of the policy change. “Everything is about money at Mercer, and I don’t think the smoke-free policy is that great” said Delporte.
Delporte also disagrees with the placement of vending machines around campus. “ I think that they [Mercer] want us fat. The vending machines don’t really have anything healthy, the cafeteria neither. Yet, they are worried about us smoking?! They do it to make money. That’s the big issue.”
Delporte says she “respects the rules” by not smoking on campus, but “still sees people who smoke on campus without any penalty.”
The penalty for offenders, as stated on the Mercer website is “$25 for the first offense, $50 for the second offense, and $100 for each subsequent offense.”
Security Commanding Officer Michael Flaherty is ultimately responsible for issuing fines for smoking on campus. Flaherty told the VOICE that no fines have been issued.
“A few warnings have been given to students smoking on campus, but no actual fines. The students know the policy and are very understanding. We would rather educate the students who don’t know about the policy than give fines,” explained Flaherty.
Bryon Marshall, Director of Security says he “is seeing a compliance among the students,” and that he believes “ the vending machines are a good avenue for convenience.”