International students question tobacco-free policy following email reminder

By Leda Alvim, Staff Writer
On November 25, 2018

The tobacco-free policy has been in place for nearly three years, but international students were reminded of it earlier this month. ORACLE PHOTO/JESSE STOKES

USF has been a tobacco-free campus for nearly three years.

However, some students feel the policy is not enforced and has not made a real change.

An email was sent out by the Office of International Services on Nov. 13 as a reminder reinforcing the policy to all international students. The Oracle contacted Marcia Taylor, director of International Services, for comment via email but did not receive a response by the time of publication.

“USF is a smoke-free, tobacco-free, and vapor-free campus,” Taylor wrote in the email. “Students who are caught in violation (of) the policy can be referred to Student Rights & Responsibilities and could face punishment.”

The policy, also known as the Limited Tobacco Use Policy, prohibits the use of tobacco and related products on all property owned, leased or operated by USF.

Overseen by the Office of Student Affairs and Student Success, the tobacco policy is peer-enforced. Meaning, students can report violators through the online reporting tool or by contacting the Office of Student Rights & Responsibilities.

Adam Freeman, a university spokesperson, said the idea behind being a tobacco-free campus is to promote overall personal health and wellness.

“The success of the tobacco-free policy is dependent upon the involvement and cooperation of the entire USF community,” Freeman said. “It’s everyone’s responsibility to educate others about the policy and to help with the enforcement.”

Juanita Morales, a freshman majoring in global business, is an international student from Colombia. She said the policy needs to be better enforced, specifically in the old smoking areas, including outside of the library.

“There are signs about USF being a smoke-free campus, however, right next to the library, there are people smoking at the same spot every day,” Morales said. “The policy is definitely necessary because non-smokers like me would like to walk to class without having to cover our mouth when walking past the library to avoid secondhand smoke.”

According to an Americans for Nonsmokers’ Rights analysis, among 4,700 colleges and universities in the U.S., only 1,611 campuses are smoke and tobacco-free. For some students, the policy is nice to have, but may be a battle that cannot be won.

Such students include Phillip Larson, a sophomore majoring in engineering and an international student from Guatemala.

“Designating areas for smoking are ideal because not all people are able to control their smoking habits easily,” Larson said. “Allowing them to smoke in these areas promote what some would call ‘bad’ actions by others, but it allows those who smoke to be able to continue doing so and it allows them to have a comfortable experience at USF as well.”

A survey done by CVS Health in 2017 revealed that three in four Americans and eight in 10 current U.S. college students support policies that prohibit smoking and tobacco use on college campuses. In addition, the survey indicated that 57 percent of college students said that a tobacco-free campus is important to them when making their final choice when choosing a college.

Though for some students the issue remains if USF’s policy is advantageous.

João Godoy, a freshman majoring in environmental biology, is an international student from Brazil and said that the email is an effective way to promote the policy but does not see any changes coming with it.

“I was very confused when I saw the email because I always see people smoking around campus, mainly near the library,” Godoy said. “One of the reasons why this keeps happening is because there is not a strict policy regarding this subject. If they are putting effort advertising this policy why aren’t they doing anything to make it effective?”

It is still unclear why this email was sent solely to international students.

Victoria Celis, a sophomore majoring in advertising, is an international student from Venezuela. She said the policy it is not effective since people still smoke and get away with it.

“I definitely think this policy is necessary especially at such a ‘green’ campus,” Celis said.

Celis added that the email she received was a nice reminder, but that the International Services office should consider approaching students in person.

Freeman said that the effectiveness of the policy depends on the members of the community and how they communicate and educate violators to start respecting the policy.

“If an individual sees someone smoking, there are certain steps that they can take including approaching the person, educating them about the policy, and asking them to not to participate in that activity,” Freeman said.

Currently, violators do not have any type of punishment or citations. According to Freeman, the objective of the policy is not to punish violators but to promote an encouraging and healthier lifestyle and overall campus environment. Students who continue to smoke could be reported to the Office of Student Rights and Responsibilities and could face sanctions through the student conduct process.

Out of the USF community, which consists of approximately 50,000 people, only a dozen students reported individuals smoking on campus this semester.

“We would encourage more people who observe smoking to report it,” Freeman said. “There is an opportunity for everybody to take the responsibility for enforcing this initiative.”

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