In 1999, only one university in the country was tobacco-free. That same year, OTC decided it would join the California institution and begin taking steps to banish tobacco products from all of its campuses and centers.
In August 2003, OTC officially became tobacco-free and on Wednesday, it will mark the milestone with a celebration at 2 p.m. at the Springfield Campus.
“We are proud to mark the 10th anniversary of OTC taking a leadership role in removing tobacco from all of our campuses and centers,” said OTC Chancellor Dr. Hal L. Higdon.
Thanks to the guidance of then-OTC president Dr. Norman Myers and Ty Paterson, now-retired Vice President of Student Affairs, the changeover to become tobacco-free was relatively uneventful as the college gradually made the changes.
Myers at the time asked the Board of Trustees to go tobacco-free in order for the College to be consistent with the health message that was being taught in the Colleges classrooms, to help protect visiting highs students from tobacco exposure and to prevent the mounting cigarette butt litter on an otherwise clean campus.
“An unanticipated effect of the tobacco-free campus effort has been that, in contrast to non tobacco-free colleges whose tobacco-using percentage of students increased during their college years, the percentage of tobacco users at OTC actually decreased,” said Dr. Jim Blaine, who oversees the OTC Health and Wellness Center.
OTC created the Center of Excellence for Tobacco-Free Campus Policy in 2004 to share best practices with other organizations.
In 2010, the center was reorganized as the National Center for Tobacco Policy, a nonprofit organization that helps organizations develop, implement and sustain tobacco-free or smoke-free open space policies.
The center also is supported by Drury University. Paterson is the executive director.
“Since the creation of the National Center for Tobacco Policy here, it has helped lead hundreds of other colleges and institutions through the necessary steps in making their facilities tobacco-free,” Higdon said.
“The tobacco-free policy has been a worthwhile and rewarding 10-year effort.”
Blaine said OTC has become a national model that other universities and institutions look to for guidance on becoming tobacco-free.
“I am very proud of OTC and the leadership role they have assumed in the tobacco-free campus effort over the past 10 years and currently,” Blaine said.
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