This vandalized sign in the garden between Gillson and Phelan is representative of many students’ disregard for USF’s non-smoking policy. Photo by Cass Krughoff/Foghorn
Smoking on campus has been restricted to two designated areas since Fall 2008, but according to students, cooperation from smokers has not been very effective. Smokers continue to smoke outside the boundary areas, including high-traffic places like the front of The Market, by residence halls, and Harney plaza. Yet the designated areas are located on main campus and Lone Mountain. One is behind War Memorial Gym and the second by the Rossi Wing. The smoke free campus policy has been an effort to eventually convert the university into a non-smoking campus.
“Smokers are still smoking everywhere. I don’t think the policy has done much to change that,” said junior Alexandra Garcia. Garcia works the front desk at Hayes-Healy and often sees smokers outside the building on her way to work and on her way out. “I can always count on seeing at least two or three people just hanging out smoking. It doesn’t bother me because I’m used to it, but I’m sure it bothers others.”
Kamal Harb, Director of Health Promotion Services, said that the policy is supposed to be a collaborative effort within the entire community. Not only should smokers be expected to use the designated areas, but students, faculty, and staff are encouraged to go up to smokers and ask them to relocate to a designated area.
“Compliance has been an issue. People know about the policy but they are not complying by the policy,” he said. “Many support the policy, but the key is enforcement and compliance.”
Complying with the policy is a challenge because of the new students entering the university who are not well aware of it, Harb said. Dependence on bystanders to enforce the policy has been highly emphasized, since public safety officers are not expected to issue tickets or some form of punishment if smokers are found outside the designated areas.
“Public safety has other issues to deal with besides chasing smokers on campus. That’s not the purpose of the policy, to treat them like outlaws,” Harb said. However, if smokers become abusive of the people asking them to relocate, public safety does have the authority to intervene or report the incident.
Harb said that the biggest holdup in the policy is that young people don’t encourage their peers to smoke in the designated smoking areas.
“I don’t want to seem whiny,” Freshman Pablo Abarca said. “It’s really inconsiderate because they’re smoking where they’re not supposed to.” Abarca said he has never asked people to relocate in the past, but if he was sitting at a bench near someone smoking, he would ask them to smoke elsewhere.
Harb said that the policy has made somewhat of a change, which is meant to change the norms of the campus. “If you pass by a designated area, you’ll find many smokers are smoking right there. Change is happening but change is slow in coming.”
Senior Anders Christiensen is a smoker on campus, and said that he has no problem going to the designated areas or going off-campus to light a cigarette. If USF became a non-smoking campus, he said, “it woundn’t bother me, I would just go smoke a block away from campus if I had to.”
Harb said that this semester, Health Promotion Services will send the Dons Mascot to go around campus and distribute lollipops to promote the policy and non-smoking.
He said the policy is really a means to encourage people to quit smoking. Health Promotion Services offers free programs to students looking to quit. Even free smoking aides are provided.
Since the policy was implemented, three or four people have come into Harb’s office every semester interested in quitting. “It usually takes four to six weeks to decide the best way to quit smoking,” Harb said. “Many individuals think when they meet with me, they have to quit right away. But it’s a process. I believe in small steps to reach the ultimate goal. It takes practice to smoke, and its going to take practice to quit smoking.”
Harb has even gone up to smokers and provided them with information to make an appointment if they were interested. People often turn down his proposition because they don’t want to quit, he said. “Its an addictive thing, and many young people think they can quit anytime,” he said.
As a public health professional, Harb has noticed that smokers tend to be younger and younger, particularly because tobacco companies target younger people with messages that promote indepence and personal rights. Messages that question, “Aren’t you tired of people telling you not to smoke anymore?” Harb said.
For Harb, it’s unfortunate because second-hand smoke kills about 52,000 people annually, and the policy is to also protect non-smokers. He has received complaints from Parina Lab, because smoke enters the windows of the computer lab when people smoke outside of Harney. “People are inhaling smoke and it’s not fair,” he said.
At the end of the two-year period, Task Force, USF’s evaluation system, will evaluate how the policy has measured up in terms of enforcement and compliance. Data will be collected through surveys distributed to the campus community, and ASUSF Senate will also be contacted to get student feedback.
The information will be considered to decide if it is the right decision to completely make USF a smoke-free campus. The USF’s Presidential Cabinet will have the final say to change the policy or not.
“We don’t want to treat smokers as criminals,” Harb said. “We want to provide them with educational information on how to help them quit smoking.”