The next step in a four-year initiative to change smoking policies on UR’s campus occurred this Wednesday, January 29 in Hoyt Auditorium.

 

The UR Student Health Advisory Committee (URSHAC) hosted an open forum to discuss the present and future smoking policies at UR. The purpose of the forum was to gain perspective on the mindset of students regarding the possibility of UR becoming a smoke-free campus or having designated smoking areas. About 25 people were in attendance.

 

Student Chair of URSHAC Ryan Wier, who took charge of this initiative, emphasized that the goal of the forum was to gather information and perspective from students.

 

“I don’t want to impose […] my will onto this forum,” Wier said. “I just want to hear attitudes and ideas.”

 

At   the   forum were representatives from several groups for whom smoking policies are relevant, including the Greater Rochester Area Tobacco Cessation Center (GRATCC), Colleges Against Cancer, Well-U, University Health Services, Public Safety, Dining Services, Graduate Students Association, Students Association (SA), and Residential Life and Housing.

 

“A lot of faculty are actually very interested in this,” Wier said.

 

It did not appear that there were many smokers represented at the forum, but Wier intends to understand their stance on the matter.

 

“I want to hear opinions from people who do smoke or feel like they need a place to smoke here,” Wier said. “I just want to be able to hear all the options.”

 

Some points addressed during the forum were how any new policy could realistically be enforced, whether or not electronic cigarettes would be banned as well, what sort of funds would be required for the implementation of a policy, how international student smokers would be impacted, whether or not awareness of the current so-called “30-foot policy” exists, and how information can be gathered through surveys in the future.

 

Enforcement of any smoke-free policies was discussed. Anthony Germani, who smokes, spoke of how he would react to the prohibition of smoking.

 

“I would smoke on campus anyway,” Germani said. When asked about strict enforcement of the policy, Germani said, “I’d maybe go down to the river then to smoke […] It kind of just depends on what happens.”

 

Dean of Students Matthew Burns said enforcing new rules is definitely realistic.

 

“…Penalties could keep getting stricter and stricter,” Burns said. “If you violate it enough you can get kicked off campus […] if that’s a rule, that’s a rule.”

 

Burns also discussed the several implications of going smoke-free. One such implication is whether action should be taken under new policies to help current smokers quit, and whether students would actually take advantage of such programs.

 

Cameron Pierre-Pierre ’16, who smokes, said, “I feel like they would have to take some measures to provide help for those who do smoke.”

Wier noted that UR already has strong programs in place to help students quit smoking through the University Counseling Center (UCC).

 

Burns said that when enforcing

 

this hypothetical policy, a “grace period” would be “a period in which the community is trying to help reduce the number of smokers so that the impact is less severe.”

 

“If we’re going to make a decision to go smoke-free, we’d better be pouring everything we can to help people who want to quit, quit,” Burns said.

 

Another implication is how a smoke-free campus would affect the several staff members who can be seen smoking outside buildings. Wier and Burns both noted that as a private university, UR has a right to restrict smoking, while Wier emphasized that there is no constitutional “right to smoke.” He further commented that several places of employment already restrict smoking.

 

Burns said that for workers at UR, a smoke-free campus would have less of an impact as they go home afterwards, whereas for UR students, the policy would affect their daily lives more significantly while living on campus. He said students’ potential need to leave campus to take a smoke could have safety risks as well.

 

The question was raised whether or not across the street by the Interfaith Chapel in Bausch and Lomb park would be considered “off-campus” if UR were to become smoke free. Based on legislation passed in 2013 by the city of Rochester, it is illegal to smoke in any Rochester parks.

 

Regarding money spent currently, Director of Facilities Jeff Foster said that 5-6 man hours are spent daily cleaning up cigarette butts and $5000 is spend a year on the employment of those doing this.

 

SA Senator Tristan Ford, who helped lead discussion at the forum, said, “$5000 can better be spent on our student groups or funding another 5K challenge initiative.”

 

The issue of cigarette disposal is also notable. Emily Mesiti ’17 expressed her views on the matter.

 

“I don’t really have a problem with people smoking,” said Mesiti, “I just have a problem with seeing the cigarette buds all over the floor all the time.”

 

Burns acknowledged the controversy that could arise if smoking were to be prohibited.

 

“When it comes to regulateing one’s health-related decisions, you cross a line there, and so one ought to be cautious about that.”

 

Pierre-Pierre discussed this.

 

“It’s not the schools business to tell me what I can and can not do.”

 

Germani shared his thoughts on what is driving this initiative. He said that the health risks of secondhand smoke are more applicable to home environments, while on a college campus, people are spread out enough not to be affected.

 

President of Colleges Against Cancer Natalie Santacesaria held different views.

 

“I think it’s a secondhand smoke issue,” Santacesaria said. “Its harmful, and I don’t think people realize the harm.”

 

Allie Trachtenberg ’17 said that smokers don’t affect her personally, and that it is only bothersome if they blow smoke toward her, which has apparently not been an issue.

 

“[They’re] just walking past us,” Germani said regarding non-smoking students.

 

There are now at least 1,182 100% smoke-free campuses. Of these, 811 are 100% tobacco-free, up from just 406 in 2011 and 204 in 2012— according the American Nonsmokers’ Rights Foundation (ANRF).

 

Among universities that have already become smoke-free are New York University, Alabama State University, Washington University in St. Louis, and most SUNYs. Several medical campuses across the U.S. are also on the list.

 

URMC went smoke free in 2006 and has been used as an example of what would need to be done if UR were to follow.

 

Director of University Health Services Dr. Ralph Manchester, who has experience with URMC and the process it went through to become smoke-free, noted at the forum that designated smoking huts on the UR campus were never built because it was estimated to cost six figures. He noted this as an argument against “designated areas” and for a completely smoke-free campus.

 

The initiative to make UR smoke-free was started in 2010 by Catherine Tarantine ’13 and Sara Rothenburg ’13 after SUNY Buffalo became smoke free. Over the last four years, other forums have been held, but no results were produced. So what has changed this time around?

 

Wier said that this effort is different because the forum was better planned. He said the participation of several faculty members and graduate students who can share their experiences and make suggestions is important. Wier also noted that past efforts were met with apathy by the student population.

 

The future of this effort remains to be seen, although Associate Director for Health Promotion Linda Dudman has been working with MCC to get Tie Patterson, an advocate for smoke-free college campuses, to come speak at UR in April.

 

“I think this is a stepping stone,” Santacesaria said about the forum. “I don’t think we can have a smoke-free campus without introducing these smaller steps.”

 



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