Misericordia to Become Smoke, Tobacco Free Campus

Bethany Jopling, Reporter


University officials have decided to make the Misericordia campus smoke and tobacco free, effective July 2020.

Smoking has been allowed on campus, as long as smokers are at least 20 feet from a building.  A recent decision by the Environmental Sustainability Committee, however, means students, faculty and staff members will no longer be allowed to smoke anywhere on campus.

Laurie Finnegan, project manager for the university and manager of the grounds department, said the idea of becoming a tobacco and smoke free campus was brought up over a year ago in a meeting when she was invited to the Tobacco/Smoke Free Campus Summit. Following the event and after listening to how other schools made the transition, she brought the concept to Misericordia.

Photo provided by Macrovector

“A sub-committee was formed and we met with several individuals in leadership roles at Misericordia,” Finnegan said. “Throughout these meetings, we were asked to write proposals stating what we want to happen, why we want it to happen and how we intend on making it happen.”

All over campus, cigarette butts, cigar ends and vaping cartridges have been left for staff members to clean up; therefore, the committee decided to move forward with the idea in order to tackle this issue while promoting a healthy lifestyle and showing concern for the safety of campus.

“The campus grounds are the first thing prospective students and parents see when they visit campus, so we need them to be appealing and clean,” said Finnegan, who also mentioned how, in November  2019, two fires on campus were caused by cigarettes not being properly disposed.

Sister Cindy March, associate director of mission integration and chair of the Environmental Sustainability Committee, said she and the other committee members would not pursue this new change if they did not see benefits to it.

“With this initiative, our intention is not to make choices for people to smoke or not to smoke, but we do want to support behaviors for good health,” she said.

The committee plans to partner with others to bring in professionals from Geisinger and the American Lung Association to conduct educational sessions on the usage of tobacco, vaping and smoking.

Along with helping people receive better support for good health behaviors, this modification to campus will be beneficial to the surrounding environment, according to March.

“Eliminating the unsightliness of disposed cigarette butts and filters laying around our grounds, protection from the evidence-based effects of second-hand smoke,” she said, “we are hoping, for at least some, that this initiative will encourage and strengthen a desire in our community to adopt healthy habits of living.”

Enrollment marketing coordinator David Pasquini is a member of the committee but was not a part in the final decision-making process of this new initiative.

“I agree with it,” he said.  “While I wasn’t directly involved with the nuisances of the process and the execution of it, the committee, including myself, was definitely behind this initiative.”

Pasquini believes this difficult initiative will benefit the campus as a whole by helping it to become a healthier environment and will make the university more inviting to students and visitors, resulting in an overall cleaner campus.

“Research has shown that smoking is dangerous to our heath, including second-hand smoke, and that consequently, I’m proud of Misericordia in making a decision that isn’t easy,” said Pasquini.

This new change for campus is not only a big one for faculty and staff members, but also for students who are voicing their opinions on the matter.

Juliana Cofrancesco, senior English secondary education major, is just one of many students who believe this is going to be a good change for Misericordia to make the entire environment a healthier place.

“I’m happy about it because, personally, I’m an asthmatic, so I’m very sensitive to different pollutions in the air,” she said. “We’re very big on the environment here so I think that it’s very important that we step up our game in that regard.”

Cofranceso believes the decision to make the campus smoke and tobacco free and to help promote a healthy lifestyle will help the school’s image since its curriculum focuses on health science.

“We’re a big health science school, so it’s good to promote that health and being a healthy person,” Cofranceso said. “What kind of campus would we be if it’s a health science campus, yet we’re promoting very unhealthy living styles, such as smoking?”

Beginning July 1, all types of cigarettes, e-cigarettes, chewing tobacco and other tobacco products will be prohibited on campus.

The policy will contain more details and will be sent via email to students, faculty and staff members when it goes into effect.