Potential smoking ban sparks mixed reviews from students

Liana Teixeira

The University of New Haven may be the next university to join the smoke-free/tobacco-free campus trend sweeping the nation. In an email sent to all students and faculty on Wednesday, April 23, Associate Vice President of Student Affairs and Dean of Students, Rebecca Johnson, announced that the university is considering revising its regulation to become smoke-free and tobacco-free.cigarette 1 - for opinion

However, before any final decisions can be made, the email requested the campus community to provide their input in an anonymous survey. The link to the survey can be found at the bottom of the email and is due by May 2, 2014, according to Johnson.

News of the potential policy change quickly reached students, who expressed mixed feelings about a smoking ban.

“I think that the University of New Haven becoming a smoke-free/tobacco free campus would be a good idea,” said hospitality and tourism management major Julia Gritzbach. “Sure, some people who smoke will be upset and won’t like that very much, but I think it would be a good and beneficial change to campus.”

One student who preferred to remain anonymous said she believes this initiative is “awesome” for UNH, stating how many people stand too close to entrances while smoking, making it difficult for students who don’t smoke to avoid it.

Meanwhile, other students took to Facebook, most suggesting that the university not limit individuals’ choices and try enforcing the 20-feet rule they currently have in place, instead of banning tobacco and smoking altogether.

The push for smoke-free/tobacco-free campuses is a growing national movement. A 2013 report from the Americans for Nonsmokers’ Rights showed that almost 20 college campuses in Massachusetts were entirely smoke-free, including all four campuses of Northeastern University, University of Massachusetts – Amherst, and Harvard. A full list released by the Americans for Nonsmokers’ Rights Foundation in January 2014 showed that there are at least 1,182 smoke-free campuses nationwide. Of these, 811 are also 100 percent tobacco-free. Quinnipiac’s North Haven Campus is the only college campus in Connecticut that has a 100 percent smoke-free/tobacco-free policy in place at this time.

“Health and wellness is important,” said Johnson. “However we decide to go, there will be an educational campaign.”

Johnson explained that a committee was formed, consisting of various faculty and staff members at the university to discuss how to better address the smoke policy on campus. Several controversies with keeping a smoke-friendly campus include the visible collection of cigarette butts on the ground, as well as students disregarding the 20-feet rule outside buildings.

“It’s the individual’s responsibility to follow the 20-feet rule,” said Johnson, but she admits it’s difficult to enforce.

“I support UNH becoming a smoke-free/tobacco-free campus, since it would reduce the amount of related litter on the ground. I also support it because the current rule of smoking 20 feet away from any building on campus is not enforced at all… I’m convinced smokers think the rule is really 2.0 feet,” said forensic science and chemistry student Stephen Shepherd. “Secondhand smoke is often worse for your health than regular smoking, if exposed frequently. Do we want to continue to force that on our students, especially the ones trying to study or get work done?”

Johnson is hoping student surveys on the proposed smoke-free policy will help the committee bring feedback to the UNH administration.