PITTSFIELD -- A grassroots group at Berkshire Community College is advocating to expand smoking restrictions on campus.
A proposal is being developed, but a recommendation isn't expected to go before the board of trustees until August 2013, according to Deborah Cote, the college's vice president of human resources. It hasn't been decided whether the proposal will make the campus entirely smoke-free or just implement tighter restrictions.
"We're heading down the path," Cote said.
The issue came up during the American Cancer Society's 37th annual Great American Smoke out on Thursday, when BCC instructors, staff and respiratory care students were encouraging their colleagues and peers to stop using tobacco.
If tighter smoking restrictions get approved by the board of trustees, BCC would join nearby Holyoke Community College and an expanding group of other colleges and universities in restricting tobacco use, according to Cote.
Mount Wachusett and Bristol community colleges already have implemented bans. Middlesex Community College is working on a policy.
At BCC, the professors and administrative employee unions would need to support the policy change, Cote said.
Smoking at BCC is relegated to "smoking huts" now. On the far northeast side of the campus on Thursday, students who were taking a break with a cigarette said a ban on smoking would make it difficult for them to arrive to class on time.
"I don't see how we're harming anyone," said Ron Leja, 22, standing out on a patch of muddy grass about a dozen feet from a walkway on the outskirts of the campus. "It makes it more stressful for students to go off campus. It's quite a ways to go as is."
"It just makes me mad," said Autumn Torres, 18, a pre-nursing major.
She said that students might not follow the rules or start smoking in the parking lot.
"No one is going to go off campus in the snow or out in the woods" to smoke, Torres said.
Berkshire County has implemented a series of smoking prohibitions this year. The Berkshire Mall in Lanes borough prohibited the use of tobacco on its property, while stores with pharmacies have banned tobacco sales in Pittsfield, along with Lee, Lenox, and Stockbridge.
The risks associated with smoking include a higher risk for lung cancer, but also other types of cancers, according to the American Cancer Society. There is also a heightened chance of a heart attack, stroke, and blood vessel disease.
On Thursday, Holly Clark, 31, a BCC nursing major, was trying to advocate her peers to stop smoking by getting them to share their stories for a"Ex-Smoker's Hall of Fame" she was hoping to create on campus.
Individuals shared their stories, which will be publicly displayed to encourage others to stop smoking. One person told how she started banking the money spent on cigarettes and accrued tens of thousands of dollars over many years.
Clark, a former smoker, said she started at 13, sneaking out with friends into the woods. She quit only a year ago after being urged by her child.
"Everybody knows smoking can cause your lungs to get black and your nails to get yellow, so I wanted to focus on positive things [with the Hall of Fame] and stop making them feel ashamed," Clark said. "It's not a reflection of character, but tobacco is so addictive and so easy to get."