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Smoking Ban Enforcement Case Study

Friendly, but firm
University Business, April 2013

Although many campuses are tobacco-free, it would be rare to find 100 percent compliance among staff, faculty, and students. There are usually a handful of smokers huddled together in a corner, puffing away.

“We try to tell people to spread the word in a respectful way, to be friendly, be positive, and not forget you’re talking to a fellow employee or student,” says Patrick Hennessey, a member of the President’s Advisory Committee for a tobacco-free campus at Westchester Community College (N.Y.). The campus’ ban took effect Sept. 1, 2012.

While tobacco-free campuses are gaining in numbers, a key challenge for HR is dealing with violators, especially repeat offenders. Westchester has developed a progressive discipline process that focuses more on education than harsh penalties.

Here’s how it works: Employees call HR to report violators. If the violator is staff or faculty, HR requests that the offender’s supervisor speak with the individual, reminding the worker about the ban. “We’ve had a few cases where that has happened,” Hennessey says. With students, however, HR records their name and, if complaints continue, they’re required to speak with a school counselor. If the violations still persist, student sanctions could range anywhere from community service to disciplinary probation to suspension.

“No one has gotten to that level,” he says. “The critical difference—and it’s a fine line —is that we don’t tell people they can’t smoke in their lives at any point. We just say we don’t want you smoking when you’re here on campus.”