Tobacco-free campus? Only in name

Valario Johnson

Staff Writer

Though there are signs posted throughout campus urging students, faculty and visitors to not smoke while on campus, some students said that the smoke-free campus policy implemented in 2012 does not seem to be enforced.

Others said that the university has no right to force this policy onto students.

“The whole issue came from the health and welfare for students,” said Herbert Reeves, dean of student services. “Prior to that, we had a smoke-free policy in the buildings.”

Reeves said that the major problem was that the administration was finding people outside the academic buildings smoking and just throwing their cigarette butts onto the ground.

“We actually took away the urns from around the buildings to get people not to smoke,” he said.

“We’ve had some issues this semester with students smoking in the hall and in their rooms,” said Rainey Ketcham, a junior elementary education major from Birmingham and a resident assistant in Pace Hall, which has been one of the residence halls having continuous issues with smoking.

According to Ketcham, many students, particularly international students, will go outside the building to smoke, but resident assistants do not have the authority to fine or ask them to stop unless they are in the building.

Ketcham continued by saying that the police officers or security personnel do not tell them to stop.  She said that she does not think that the rule has been enforced enough for people to stop smoking on campus.

Reeves said that resident assistants do have the authority to enforce this rule, even if people are smoking right outside the building. Reeves said he also believes that Student Government Association members have a duty to do the same around campus. “This is everybody’s job, to enforce these policies,” he said.

“Normally, if we smell it and we have evidence of them smoking, we give them a $50 fine and remind them that they are not allowed to, and if it keeps happening, then that’s when we have to give them a higher fine or talk to a higher administration to get them to stop,” Ketcham said.

“Pace is the center of all of our international students, not just the ones who happen to live there,” said Sterling Wingard, a senior information systems major from Cape Coral, Florida, and a resident assistant in Pace Hall. “So no matter how aware of the rules we can get our residents to be, there will always be another student sitting outside smoking that we’ve never seen before.”

“We have asked the staff in the international program to help us with educating international students on the policy,” Reeves said.

Reeves said he understands that social smoking is a part of many international students’ cultures, but that does not exempt them from the policy.

“I do not smoke often,” said Trevor Brown, a sophomore American Sign Language major from Gadsden.  “Whenever I do smoke, I try to smoke tobacco-free vaporizer pens.”

Brown said although he knows it is a bad choice in itself, he smokes only vaporizer pens, as he tried to go with the safest option. He encourages other tobacco users to switch as well.

Brown said that he first got into smoking due to peer pressure that he said is pretty strong in college. He said that he thinks the freedom that students get when away from parental authority figures compels them to try smoking despite the restrictions against it.

“When you come on campus, it’s all about exploring what you are able to do and not able to do as an adult,” he said. “I think that’s a choice they think that they can make where they may think they are smooth enough to do it without getting caught, or maybe they choose to do it without even caring.”

Although Brown himself does not smoke on campus and goes outside of his apartment to do so when he needs to, he said that he sees many students, particularly younger freshmen, disregarding the rule and smoking on campus.

Alison Spengler, a freshman graphic design major from Smiths Station and supporter of the smoke-free policy, said that the efforts to stop smoking on campus will come about when everyone works as a whole and that if students want to smoke, then they need to leave campus to do so.

“The administration doesn’t necessarily have a say in our personal choices,” Spengler said. “Therefore, I wouldn’t recommend them implementing anything themselves, but I do think a bigger outreach in our school community as a whole, administration and students, to promote our school policy would be more beneficial. It should be a positive campus effort.”

“The way that the administration will have to go about doing it is actually having a consequence for smoking,” Wingard said. “As of now, there is no teeth to the policy if someone is smoking outdoors.”

“When they first decided to be a smoke-free campus, I don’t think that they really made it a big enough thing,” Ketcham said. Ketcham said that she does not feel that the administration communicated the policy thoroughly enough, though she understands that people will smoke regardless of the rule.

“I’m not sure quite how I feel about the policy as a whole,” Wingard said. “As a student and RA, I feel like I have a right to a smoke-free environment, but at the same time, nicotine addictions are a very real thing. A lot of folks need to smoke just to function normally. So I don’t know if I am for it or not. If we do enforce it more heavily, what do we tell those who really are addicted?”

Reeves said that for students who find themselves wanting to quit smoking, the university sponsors programs through the Alabama Department of Public Health, but he also said that these programs require groups of people.

Reeves also suggested that students who want to quit smoking go to the student health center on campus. He said that there, the health professionals may be able to prescribe students with nicotine patches.

“This is going to be a constant reinforcement,” Reeves said. “You can’t expect 100 percent compliance within two years. Are we better than we were a few years ago? Yes.”

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