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Students light up despite state statutes

Smoking is universally prohibited on the H. Lee Moffitt Cancer Center’s property. Across the rest of the campus, however, students are able to smoke as long as they’re outdoors, regardless of state law.

Over the summer, USF placed “No Smoking” signs in enclosed areas around campus to comply with the Florida Clean Indoor Air Act (FCIAA). Students, however, are still smoking in these areas because the University has no way to enforce this law.

Buildings such as Cooper Hall, the Library, and the Social Science Building regularly have people, particularly students, smoking near the signs outside the buildings.

Since every building on campus is state-owned, said Safety and Compliance Manager Charles Brown, smoking inside them is prohibited. Smoking outside the building in an enclosed, indoor workspace is also against the law. The law defines an indoor workspace as one that is 50 percent enclosed.

“If there is a ceiling, smoking is not allowed,” Brown said.

The University, however, is unable to enforce anti-smoking regulations. Its options are to report individuals to the Department of Health or to the state fire marshal, according to state statutes.

“Environmental Health and Safety Services did their part in terms of putting up the signs where the law requires it,” Brown said. “It isn’t in their jurisdiction to enforce the laws.”

It isn’t University Police’s job either, said Lt. Meg Ross, UP spokeswoman, after reviewing state statutes concerning the FCIAA.

“As far as enforcement, it looks like it’s not enforced by us,” she said.

The statute lists the offense as a non-criminal, civil infraction. Though UP does enforce these types of infractions, it has no jurisdiction to enforce this rule.

“We could report the violation to one of those departments (listed in the statute),” Ross said.

Joshua W. Broer, building supervisor for Cooper Hall, said the campus-wide “No Smoking” signs have inherent flaws.

“The signs don’t stand out and their placement isn’t efficient,” he said.

Broer also said some of the signs might cause confusion because they are near locations where smoking is allowed.

University spokesman Michael Hoad said it’s difficult to penalize students for smoking in those areas when the statutes do not define specific disciplinary actions.

Some smokers who noticed the signs said they still decide to smoke because they didn’t see anyone enforcing them.

Carly Justine Sanford, a senior majoring in gerontology, said if someone told her not to smoke in a non-smoking area, she would only stop temporarily because no one is around long enough to take action.

“They would need to provide more smoking areas,” Sanford said. “It’s too hot to smoke outside, and when it rains, where do we go then?”

Non-smokers, however, complain they have to wade through a sea of smoke to get to class or study at the Library.

“I would avoid the wall of smoke by walking around those smoking and try to get in without having to breathe in the secondhand smoke,” said Sandy Macenat, a freshman majoring in microbiology. “If I do walk into the smoke, my contacts dry up and it starts to hurt my eyes.”

Not all non-smokers are against those who smoke in the designated non-smoking areas. Some, such as freshman business major Jemson Bienaime, said it was pointless to be bothered by something one could easily avoid.

“I really don’t care. It takes about two seconds to walk through the main entrance of the Library,” he said. “I could just hold my breath.”

The University is simply not doing enough to make the school environment safe and healthy for everyone, Broer said.

“It’s a campus-wide problem,” he said. “The signs are there but they are not working.”

The University, however, will not be able to change this problem without state support.

“The next step, the next giant step to banning outdoor  smoking at USF, we couldn’t do without Florida law,” Broer said. “And Florida law does not allow you to punish people who are smoking outside.”

In the meantime, Brown said he hopes a cultural move against smoking will help diminish smoking on campus.

“We’re relying on peer pressure and a guilty conscious by posting a sign that says you’re not supposed to smoke there,” he said.