Dartmouth’s campuswide ban on tobacco earns praise, criticism

  • Pine restaurant sous chef Robert Beisler looks over dining reservations for the restaurant during a smoke break behind the Dartmouth College owned Hanover Inn, in Hanover, N.H., Saturday, Jan. 16, 2021. Beisler said that stepping out for a cigarette is, "my little break from the hectic chaos inside." Dartmouth is banning tobacco use on all of its properties beginning in March. "I would love the extra motivation to quit," said Beisler. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • Hanover Inn houseman Tom Schwarz, left, and valet Kyle Willey, right, converse during a cigarette break behind the Dartmouth College-owned hotel in Hanover, N.H., Saturday, Jan. 16, 2021. Dartmouth College is enacting a new tobacco policy in March that will prohibit all students, employees and visitors from smoking, vaping and using smokeless tobacco products throughout campus and college-owned properties. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • A discarded cigarette butt sits on a Dartmouth College campus sidewalk Saturday, Jan. 16, 2021. The college will ban use of all tobacco smoking, and smokeless products, and vaping beginning in March. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

Valley News Staff Writer
Published: 1/16/2021 9:38:46 PM
Modified: 1/16/2021 9:38:45 PM

HANOVER — Dartmouth College’s announcement last week of a new policy prohibiting the use of tobacco products on campus has received mixed reviews from members of the Dartmouth community.

The policy, which goes into effect on March 18, bans smoking and the use of other tobacco products, including chewing tobacco and e-cigarettes, in all facilities, grounds, vehicles or other Dartmouth properties by students, employees and visitors.

In a Thursday email to the Dartmouth community, Dartmouth President Phil Hanlon and Executive Vice President Rick Mills explained the move as part of the college’s commitment to “providing a healthy environment for our community.” They also pointed to “growing evidence” that tobacco use is a risk factor for various health conditions, including COVID-19.

In becoming tobacco-free, Dartmouth joins more than 2,000 other campuses, according to the American Cancer Society’s Center for Tobacco Control. The college’s efforts to do so extend back at least to the fall of 2018, when it received a $11,900 grant from the Center for Tobacco Control, Dartmouth spokeswoman Diana Lawrence said in an email. A committee comprising physicians, researchers, faculty, staff and administrators developed the policy, she noted.

The college offers a range of cessation services for tobacco users who’d like to kick the habit, including “quit kits” containing fidget toys, sugarless gum and nicotine replacement therapy gum (for those over 18). In addition to resources through Dartmouth’s health services, the college also points those looking to quit to a free hotline 1-800-QUIT-NOW and Smokefree.gov, which offers quit plans and support via live chat and text.

Kyle Willey, a part-time Hanover Inn valet, said he’s hopeful that the spot where he and other employees go to smoke in a parking lot behind the Inn will be considered off-campus and therefore exempt from the tobacco prohibition. A 48-year-old Wilder resident, Willey said he has been smoking for about three decades and smokes anywhere from five to 25 cigarettes in a day, depending on how busy he is. He quit once, but came back to it and said he’s unlikely to try again.

“I’m too old,” he said in a phone call after his shift on Saturday. “You can’t teach an old dog new tricks.”

Standing on a Hanover sidewalk in the rain Saturday morning, Kevin Ge, a Dartmouth senior, said he felt the new policy demonstrated that administrators were “overstepping their boundaries.”

Though not a tobacco user himself, Ge, a computer science major planning to attend Tuck School of Business next fall, said he thought it was unfortunate that in the “Live Free or Die” state, Dartmouth administrators won’t “let employees or students live free.”

That view was shared by Jimmy Cronin, a Dartmouth junior, who stood across Main Street from Lou’s Restaurant & Bakery on Saturday. Cronin said the college’s 2015 ban on hard alcohol was “one thing,” but the new tobacco policy is a “step too far.”

It’s “not the college’s place to make this choice for you,” said Cronin, who said he’s not a “habitual” tobacco user.

But, Florence Zhang, a graduate student studying chemistry, said she supports the new policy.

“I personally don’t smoke cigarettes,” she said, noting that the building where she works is already smoke-free.

Dr. James Sargent, a professor of pediatrics at the Geisel School of Medicine at Dartmouth who has studied the way the media and marketing can influence substance use, said that the policy will likely face pushback initially but eventually become a part of the campus culture.

Sargent — who was not involved in the new policy’s development, but applauded it — compared the tobacco-free policy to the college’s earlier restrictions on hard alcohol. When the policy was enacted, students were frustrated, but now they have adapted.

“I’m sure the same thing’s going to happen,” he said in a phone interview.

Local 560 President Chris Peck, who works as a master painter at the college, said he had been included in meetings about the policy and knew it was coming. While the roughly 10% of his union’s members who smoke are likely to be upset, Peck said he was glad the college was offering everyone on campus access to cessation support.

“It’ll be tough for some,” he said. “Hopefully people can change.”

He also was hopeful that the college would enforce it in a “fair and consistent” manner and noted that enforcing the prohibition of e-cigarettes is likely to be especially difficult given that some the devices can be small and hard to see.

After the policy goes into effect, those found by college officials using other forms of tobacco products will be reminded of the policy’s requirements and referred for tobacco cessation treatment, according to the college’s website describing the policy. Should they continue to use tobacco products on Dartmouth property, they could face further sanctions.

Nora Doyle-Burr can be reached at ndoyleburr@vnews.com or 603-727-3213.

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