Students returning to Polk State Winter Haven this fall will notice a big change in where it’s OK to smoke — or more specifically, where it’s not.
Earlier this year, the Polk State Winter Haven Student Government Association and a committee comprised of faculty, staff and student representatives voted to move designated smoking areas off campus.
The vote came after a survey of more than 1,200 students and employees that showed the majority of respondents wanted smoking moved off campus. Of particular concern was the southeastern corner of the WLR building, adjacent to the Administration and Fine Arts buildings.
The corner had long been one of the most popular spots for smokers, thanks to numerous benches and the cover of the WLR building. But the corner is also situated along one of the campus’s busiest walkways.
“This, obviously, caused a problem for non-smokers, who just in crossing from one side of the campus to the other, or in heading to classes inside WLR, or the TLCC or library, had to breathe in cigarette smoke,” said Polk State Winter Haven Provost Martha Santiago, who was dean of academic affairs at the time the smoking committee convened.
In response, the committee agreed that smoking areas should be moved to the perimeter of campus. Designated smoking areas are now located in grassy areas that rim the parking lots outside the Administration, Fine Arts, Multi-Services, Student Center, and Polk State Chain of Lakes Collegiate High School buildings.
“The change has been beneficial for everyone,” said Polk State student Christina Urbina, who served on the smoking committee.
Urbina, a smoker, said it’s been an adjustment to walk to the parking lots, but it was a change that had to be made.
“I don’t want to smoke in people’s faces,” said Urbina, a resident of Winter Haven who will graduate with her Associate in Arts degree in the spring. “It’s my choice, not theirs, to smoke.”
Urbina said moving smoking areas to the edges of the Winter Haven campus is also good for the College’s image.
“It says that Polk State cares about your health,” she said. “It’s a move in the right direction.”
For several years, Polk State Lakeland’s designated smoking areas have also been located in the parking lots.
Now, not only has the Winter Haven campus followed suit, but recently, members of the College administration enacted a new college-wide policy that limits smoking to designated areas within parking lots at all campuses and centers. The policy prohibits not only cigarettes, but also cigars, pipes, snuff, chewing tobacco, and electronic cigarettes.
“With the college-wide policy, our intent is to encourage healthy habits,” said Polk State Vice President of Student Services Reggie Webb, who thanked the Polk State Winter Haven Student Government Association and committee members for their leadership in relocating the designated smoking areas.
“It was in the best interest of our students — and anyone from the community who visits the College — to remove smoking from our campuses and centers.”
Polk State’s locations include campuses in Lakeland and Winter Haven, the Polk State Airside Center in South Lakeland, the Polk State Clear Springs Advanced Technology Center in Bartow, and the Polk State JD Alexander Center and Polk State Lake Wales Arts Center, both in Lake Wales.