By John J. “Ski” Sygielski, Ed.D.,
President, HACC, Central Pennsylvania’s Community College
It’s still early summer, but I’m already eagerly anticipating the arrival of August and the beginning of the fall 2015 term at HACC, Central Pennsylvania’s Community College. The start of a new term is cause to celebrate the potential of all who choose to further their education at HACC. I’ll be seeing many new faces on our campuses as well as the faces of those who are returning to the classrooms or continuing their service to the College.
What I won’t be seeing or smelling, however, are tobacco products.
HACC is going tobacco free.
When this policy is fully implemented, it will provide a tobacco-free workplace and environment for everyone, including students, employees and visitors to any of our five HACC’s campuses. No one will be able to light up, chew or inhale in the classrooms and offices, campus grounds or parking lots. There will also be a different look to our campuses as signage is replaced and cigarette receptacles and designated smoking areas are no longer available to tobacco users.
Adopting this tobacco-free campuses policy will create a healthier, safer and more productive work and learning environment for the entire College community of 20,000 students and more than 2,000 employees, as well as our numerous visitors. It also will prepare our students to enter the world of work where many employers do not permit tobacco use. I am proud that HACC is joining the ranks of the majority of Pennsylvania’s community colleges and the many businesses that ban smoking and other tobacco products. Many employers in our service region, including those in the health industry and public schools, do not allow smoking on their properties. Smoking is not permitted in most public places, including restaurants and public transportation.
The tobacco-free campuses policy is the culmination of the work of College employees. Students were also invited to participate in the wellness coalition. The wellness collation collaborated for several months to spearhead a “Tobacco-Free Campuses Initiative.” This initiative, which was approved by the HACC Board of Trustees and endorsed by College leadership, is appropriately named Healthy Minds. Healthy Hearts. Healthfully Yours. I announced the adoption of this new policy in early spring 2015.
The wellness coalition also partnered with health agencies in Central Pennsylvania to provide free smoking cessation classes. These partners are Lancaster General Health, Lebanon Family Health Services, Northern Dauphin County YMCA and Wellspan Health in Adams and York counties. The free smoking cessation classes will be offered again this fall at each of HACC’s campuses in Gettysburg, Harrisburg, Lancaster, Lebanon and York. These classes are open to the public as well as students and employees.
Adopting Healthy Minds. Healthy Hearts. Healthfully Yours. will provide a healthier College community. Tobacco use damages nearly every organ in the human body and is the number one cause of preventable death in the United States and around the world. According to KickButtsDay.org, the toll of tobacco in Pennsylvania includes the death of 22,000 residents annually. Additional resources and information about the harmful effects of tobacco use and second-hand smoke can be found from national and state organizations, including the U.S. Centers for Control and Disease Prevention, the Pennsylvania Alliance to Control Tobacco and the Pennsylvania Department of Health.
Although Healthy Minds. Healthy Hearts. Healthfully Yours. was met with mild resistance from some students and employees when it was announced, the vast majority is supportive of the effort. The Student Government Association (SGA) on the Harrisburg Campus held an open forum last spring to discuss the smoking ban and address concerns about its implementation. Approximately 30 students and employees at the campus engaged College leadership in a lively discussion. A subsequent survey by the SGA found that 61 percent of the approximately 200 students who responded are in favor of tobacco-free campuses.
HACC is not just about education – we care about health. I applaud the wellness coalition for developing this initiative and am proud to embrace HACC’s commitment to a healthy campus culture and a sustainable environment. I hope that you, too, will welcome these changes as an indication of HACC’s commitment to the community’s health and embrace this positive initiative.
John J. “Ski” Sygielski, Ed.D., is the seventh president of HACC, Central Pennsylvania’s Community College. Follow him on Facebook at facebook.com/HACCSKI and Twitter at twitter.com/HACCSki.
HACC, Central Pennsylvania’s Community College, offers more than 150 career and transfer associate degree, certificate and diploma programs to nearly 20,000 students at campuses in Gettysburg, Harrisburg, Lancaster, Lebanon and York and through virtual learning. In addition, HACC serves more than 29,000 students in noncredit workforce development, public safety, adult basic education and continuing education programs offered at all campuses and off-site locations in many communities in Central Pennsylvania. For more information on how HACC is uniquely YOURS, visit hacc.edu. Also, follow us on Twitter (@HACC_info), like us on Facebook (Facebook.com/HACC64) and use #HACCNews.