No ifs, ands or cigarette butts - Central Lakes College is going tobacco-free starting Aug. 14.

The tobacco-free policy falls in line with the mission of CLC, said Ajeet Yadav, environmental health and safety director at CLC. It supports healthy living and lifestyle choices by discouraging tobacco use, protecting against exposure to secondhand smoke and supporting cessation efforts.

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"It's following the national trend promoting a clean, healthy environment for students and faculty at the college," Yadav said.

CLC is the 18th Minnesota State Colleges and Universities System school to adopt a tobacco-free policy, Yadav said.

The previous tobacco policy at MnSCU schools had been to designate certain areas on campuses where tobacco could be used, Yadav said. This new tobacco-free policy is the next step of that policy.

"Now, since there's more health concerns, and the quality of education, it's all adding up together," Yadav said. "Our college felt it's the best time to follow that trend."

Surprisingly, Yadav said the college so far has gotten a positive response from CLC students who do smoke.

"Our community all realizes this is a growing trend," Yadav said.

Many workforces are becoming tobacco-free, so the college is helping to prepare students to enter that environment, Yadav said. It also protects students from exposure to secondhand smoke, which can be just as harmful as smoking.

"Overall, this adds value to education and the education experience," Yadav said. "We all feel very proud of this positive move."

Yadav helped spearhead the effort to ban tobacco on campus as the chair of its tobacco-free task force. The college solicited the input of students and faculty during those discussions, Yadav said. CLC also worked with ClearWay Minnesota, Crow Wing Energized, Crow Wing County Community Services and Wadena County Community Services on in the process.

"We were very fortunate and very grateful to those organizations who supported during this process," Yadav said.

The task force considered the impact the tobacco-free policy would have on prospective students and employees, Yadav said. Considering that, the college allows people to use tobacco inside their motor vehicles.

"Eventually, the culture will grow and mature," Yadav said. "Maybe down the road, we will become completely tobacco-free."

The task force presented the policy to the CLC student senate, Yadav said, and kept faculty and students involved during the process.

"The whole campus community was involved during this process," Yadav said.

Under the new policy, the use, sale, free distribution and advertising of tobacco products is prohibited at all times on a college-owned, leased or operated property. The restriction applies to everyone, including students, staff, community members and visitors.

CLC is also working with QUITPLAN to support students and staff looking to quit using tobacco.

An educational institution should be a role model, Yadav said, which is part of the reason why CLC is taking a tobacco-free stance.

"We will be a role model for students," Yadav said. "Our objective is to maintain that healthy relationship between students and the community and the environment."

The college exists to help the students, Yadav said, and this policy will help students.

"Colleges are becoming more desirable that are tobacco-free," Yadav said. "They have a clean, healthy learning environment."

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