Nicholas Reese strolled past one of the new "Tobacco Free Campus" signs at York Technical College on Tuesday afternoon and took a drag from a cigarette while he still could.
The 29-year-old machine tool technology student is fuming over a campus-wide ban on tobacco products that, starting Sept. 1, will force smokers to puff in their cars.
"It sucks," Reese said. "What effect does it have to you if I'm standing here smoking outside?"
A big one, according to 77 percent of the 1,149 students and 154 employees who, responding to a survey last fall, said the college should do more to curb tobacco use. The survey was sent to all 6,000 students enrolled, Dean of Student Services Kelli Dawkins said.
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York Tech's governing board then banned the use of any tobacco products on campus except in personal vehicles. The ban includes the college's off-campus facilities.
The school took the lead from York County lawmakers, who last year voted to ban smoking in public places.
"With the trend in the area, we just got on the bandwagon," Dawkins said.
Classes started Aug. 18 at the Rock Hill college, but students are still registering and the campus is holding orientation events all week. College officials, who estimate enrollment might reach 7,000 students this fall, are giving smokers a break for the first couple weeks.
Once the ban takes effect, "we're going to take a lenient approach at first," Dawkins said.
Violators will be asked to cooperate. Persistent offenders could be fined $25 or have a disciplinary letter added to their file.
The college is also offering programs to help students and faculty quit using tobacco.
Heather Dakes, a 17-year-old business entrepreneurship student, couldn't be happier about the ban.
"It's a great idea," she said. Smoking on campus is "disgusting and inconsiderate to others who may have health issues.
"Going to class you walk straight through it. On my first day, every one of my classes smelled like cigarette smoke."
The debate over tobacco use at York Tech has been ongoing.
"Every year smoking is an issue because smokers tend to hover around doorways," Dawkins said.
In the past college officials have attempted to ease tensions over cloudy building entries by designating non-smoking entrances. Later they moved smoking receptacles farther away from buildings.
"Smokers just threw butts on the ground," Dawkins said.
Requiring tobacco users to keep the habit in their vehicles "seemed like a reasonable compromise," she said.
Business management student Kendall Johnson, 18, agrees.
"It keeps the campus clean," he said.
James Simpson, a 59-year-old smoker who just enrolled in a heavy equipment course, isn't bothered by the ban.
Lighting up in his truck is no problem, he said.
"That's if you can find a parking spot."