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USF’s partial smoking ban has hurdles to overcome

Published: Monday, March 19, 2012

Updated: Monday, March 19, 2012 23:03

Starting today, members of the USF community worried about the damaging effects of cigarettes and secondhand smoke may breath a deep sigh of relief as a campus-wide smoking ban goes into effect.

Yet USF’s advertising campaign, which proclaims, “Change is in the Air,” may need to be amended when one realizes the actual specifications of the smoking ban.

There are 25 designated smoking areas on campus, including the Library, Cooper Hall and nine different residential areas. Considering these locations are already the most densely populated smoking spots on campus, it seems unlikely anyone will notice the difference.

While designated areas are necessary and appreciated for any smoking ban, with all of the time, energy and resources spent to make the partial ban a reality, its effectiveness can still be debated.

USF’s St. Petersburg campus is a smoke-free campus, which may seem like the most appealing choice for those fed up with smoking at USF, and follows in the footsteps of universities such as the University of Florida. UF is a “100 percent tobacco free” campus, according to its website. 

Yet even completely banning tobacco seems unlikely to curb smoking on campus. About a month after UF’s campus-wide smoking ban went into effect, the school newspaper, The Alligator, reported that students were still smoking freely.

UF Police Department Public Information Officer Capt. Jeff Holcomb claimed the ban’s effectiveness was hard to declare because it can’t be punishable like a law, and student Matt Watts was still smoking on campus.

“I just don’t see the real validity to the whole ban. There’s nothing they can do,” Watts told The Alligator, adding: “I’ll continue to smoke on campus until (UF President) Bernie Machen himself says I can’t do it.”

Like UF, USF’s smoking ban is community-enforced, and whether it is actually heeded by the more than 45,000 students enrolled on the campus and its countless visitors remains to be seen. Legally, there is still nothing wrong with smoking on your way to class, and while things such as “disruptive conduct” and “reckless injurious behavior” could be grounds for expulsion from the University, there is no explicit mention of obeying smoking rules in the student code of conduct.

Students cannot be arrested, fined or ticketed for smoking outside of USF’s designated smoking areas. Yet those found smoking outside of the designated sections are subject to complaints to the Office of Students Rights and Responsibilities, Purchasing and Property Services and employee supervisors “based on the individuals’ relationship to USF,” according to the University website.

It is fairly unreasonable to possibly damage an individual’s employment or educational success because they neglected to follow a policy with no legal consequences.

In short, USF’s partial ban has a numerous problems to solve to be successful, including selection of designated areas that are already the most frequented smoking spaces, the question of enforcement and the long development time of the ban itself.

Though smoking has inarguably damaging health effects and cessation should be promoted, spending months of deliberation on an ultimately ineffective smoking ban only scratches the surface. 

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