On Wednesday, April 24 EPCC’s Student Government Association joined forces with students, teachers and other members in the community to create the Tejanos Against Tabaco.
They staged a demonstration at the EPCC Board of Trustees, demanding a change in policy to make El Paso Community College a smoke free institution.
During the Board of Trustees meeting members of the community get the opportunity to speak directly with members of the board about issues in our community and these demonstrators did just that.
One after another the members of the community spoke up about the issue as supporters wore medical masks as a symbol for their desire for clean air.
They explained many other universities and colleges have gone fully smoke free such as Austin Community College, Amarillo College and even UTEP, yet EPCC has not
Some of the speakers who are medical professionals talked about the health risks associated with smoking, some like Darcy Traffansted spoke about her own personal experiences with smoking, she stated
“I have been hospitalized multiple times, and each time I have been hospitalized at least 5 to 10 days on oxygen. I use this mask not only in this fight for clean air, but I have to use this mask walking from my car to the building because of people smoking.”
Members of the community have been advocating to be smoke free since 2011 but discussions about the issue go as far back as the 1990’s. Part of the reason there hasn’t been a change to the policy is the opposition, Bryan Mena on the on the main organizers of the demonstration explains:
“Currently, EPCC is not smoke free when several other colleges and universities across the nation have gone smoke free. We have been advocating to go smoke free for several years now, and we have faced a few road-blocks along the way. The faculty association does not agree with going smoke free on the basis that it imposes morality and it infringes on personal liberties, but we see this as a public health concern.
CLAUDIA SILVA/ TEJANO TRIBUTE
EPCC's SGA held a demonstration at ASC along with students, faculty and the community April 24 on smoking policies.
We see this effecting students because second hand smoke is a thing and it is an issue. There are students that have emphysema, COPD, or other conditions and it really impacts them negatively. So that’s why we have been advocating for so long, because we don’t see this as a personal liberties issues but a public health issue.
All these years we have done a lot of things, we have done surveys, we met with constituency groups, we have spoken to President Serrata, so many people and we still have not gone smoke free.”
While the opposition has generally been what hinders EPCC from going smoke free, no one on their side spoke on the meeting on Wednesday.
It was clear that the demonstrators did not agree with them or they feel that the public’s health greatly out weighs the need for personal liberty in regards to smoking.The Board of Trustees will be having an election on May 4th, President Serrata promised to bring up the issue again with the new board members.The fight is not over to the Tejanos against Tabaco, they promise to keep advocating for a clean and smoke free El Paso Community College.