Starting this fall, all dormitories will be smoke-free housing. This policy was implemented in all freshmen dorms last fall and now has been extended to cover all residential buildings. The previous policy left the choice of whether or not to smoke up to the individual student or the student and his or her roommate.

The previous policy stated, “Smoking is prohibited in all University-owned and leased housing, including residence halls, with the exception of individual (non-communal) living spaces of residents who are living alone, or have the consent of their roommate(s).” The new policy eliminates the exception and prohibits smoking in all residential areas.

The transition to smoke-free residence halls was sparked when four students submitted a proposal for their “Action for Health” class asking for smoke-free residence halls at UR, in the fall of 2003.

The proposal emphasized the need for the move, saying that, “It is important to reduce the number of smoking areas on campus in order to promote a healthy living environment, to minimize the effects of secondhand smoke exposure, and to reduce the rates of smoking initiation among college students.”

Many staff believe this is a step in the right direction. “I feel that it is important for us to protect the health of the students and that students have a right to live in an environment that is free of smoke,” Associate Director of the University Health Service Linda Dudman said.

The students conducted a great deal of research on the hazardous effects of secondhand smoke, the policies of other universities and the opinions and desires of UR students.

Studies from organizations like the American Cancer Society reported that approximately 30 minutes of secondhand smoke exposure a day can cause damage similar to that of a habitual smoker.

From this research, the students concluded that separating smokers by room or floor was not enough because ventilation systems were not capable of keeping hazardous components of cigarette smoke from the air. In addition, they expressed concerns over incidents of dorm room fires resulting from cigarette use.

When the students studied the policies of other universities and colleges such as Harvard University and Duke University two years ago, only 27 percent of college campuses had a smoke-free campus policy.

In fact, some believe that the UR’s policy is a good example for other schools to follow. “I think we are among the leaders with many colleges following,” Dean of Students Jody Asbury said. “The data on smoking and secondary smoke is very compelling and in some cases still growing. It is logical that this would develop up in a college in Monroe County which has been a leader in the country in smoke free public policy,” she said.

In fact, other area colleges have implemented similar policies. “Several other colleges have gone smoke free. [Rochester Institute of Technology], Nazareth [College] and Brockport [University] went smoke free,” Dudman, who was also the students’ instructor, said. “I think St. John Fisher may have already been smoke free. The new residence halls at Monroe Community College were smoke free from their opening day last fall.”

The survey conducted of UR students, for the report provided some interesting results.

“We found that 51% of students were ever bothered by smoke in their living environment,” Dudman said. ” We believe this should be 0%.”

The survey also found that 76% of students indicated “Strongly Agree” or “Agree” with the statement, “I would choose to live in smoke-free housing if it were available.”

Additionally, the survey determined that 75% of students did not smoke in the past year.

Overall, reaction to the new policy has been positive. “Personally, I feel very strongly about discouraging smoking among all people, but this was not a personal issue or decision – it was made and recommended by students for students based on real data and with good benchmarking,” Asbury said. “And as a College we have not been reluctant to say as much in talking with prospective students about it.”

However, some students don’t welcome this change of policy.

Sophomore John Lee believes that this new policy completely disregards the wants and needs of a smoker.

“UR has no right to tell me what to do,” Lee said. “I pay so much money and I still can’t live the way I want. Besides, I’d probably be more healthy smoking than eating Douglass food.”

Nevertheless, most students still see this as a move to becoming a better campus.

For instance, Freshman Samantha Kercull supports the policy. “I agree with the policy,” she says. “Everything would smell [like smoke] in the dorm. I agree with the 30 foot rule, as well,” she said.

Lindstrom can be reached at mlindstr@campustimes.org.



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