Campus-wide smoking ban a possibility

People’s freedom to smoke anywhere on campus may soon become a thing of the past as administrators take a look at banning smoking.

A task force created by USF President Judy Genshaft will meet this semester to investigate the necessary measures and hurdles that implementing a campus-wide ban on smoking would require.

“We absolutely want to (implement a full smoking ban) on the Tampa campus,” University spokesman Michael Hoad said. “The key to success is a grassroots effort. Students need to put peer pressure on other students. It requires more than passing a law.”

USF remains relatively smoker-friendly, as far as Florida laws allow. In accordance with the 1992 update to the Florida Clean Indoor Air Act, smoking in any educational facility, government building or other common area is prohibited to reduce the impact of secondhand smoke. All campus buildings are smoke-free, and a smoke-free indoor environment can be enforced by police officials.

The University of Florida and Florida International University switched to complete campus-wide bans in July and January, respectively. Smoking is prohibited on all campus grounds, including within students’ and employees’ personal vehicles. USF Health implemented a similar ban in November 2009 that prevents people from smoking inside or outside of all 19 buildings, or within a 100-foot radius of them. Moffitt Cancer Center preceded this policy with one in April 2008 that banned smoking on facility grounds.

Nancy Olliver, a tobacco treatment clinical specialist with the Smoking Cessation Program at Moffitt, said the program requires intensive effort.

“It’s a small percentage (who quit),” she said. “We give them all the help we can, and then it’ll have that exponential factor. They’ll help those around them quit.”

She said a campus-wide ban is necessary to aid the initiatives already in place at USF Health and Moffitt, as she sees individuals who smoke often leaving the grounds of one facility to smoke at another.

Hoad said that though he can’t speak for the task force that has yet to meet, designated areas for smoking could be considered.

Currently, the policy at USF Health serves as a guideline rather than a law that’s being enforced.

“The smoking issue (is) an administrative rule not governed by law enforcement entities,” University Police spokesman Lt. Chris Daniel said in an e-mail to The Oracle. “Therefore, no police action can be taken.”

Leila Martini, assistant director for the Tobacco Prevention and Cessation Program at the Area Health Education Center (AHEC) and co-chair of the Smoke-free Taskforce that was created to implement the policy at USF Health, said she believes consequences for non-compliance are unnecessary for the policy’s success.

“The policy serves more as a statement of culture change within USF Health and sets the groundwork for people to stop smoking,” she said. “I think the implementation was a success, especially for those who actually quit. I think it was a success in that it provided resources and we were able to build an infrastructure.”

Systems of support necessary to implement the ban came in the form of free Nicotine Replacement Therapy (NRT) available for two weeks for students and employees attempting to quit, as well as Smoking Cessation classes through Wellness USF. Florida AHEC received funding for these resources from the state Legislature.

“It’s only ethical,” Hoad said. “You can’t just ban it and not help (smokers). You can’t wave a magic wand (to implement a policy like this). The key will be in how to make it successful so smokers have assistance in stopping.”

He said smoking cessation initiatives would need funding if the campus were to move to a complete ban.

Alan Kent, student affairs assistant vice president for Wellness USF, said the policy is one that will be particularly difficult for residential students and employees who spend a great amount of time on campus.

“We strongly support the idea of trying to go smoke free. However, this is a decision that is very large and has a tremendous impact on the entire campus,” he said.

Kent said this is a decision that should not be purely “top down.”

“Campuses don’t just implement this overnight,” he said. “A long period of education and awareness would be necessary. It’s been implemented in campuses across the country. There are challenges, of course, and it will take some effort to educate people and implement such policies, but there’s plenty of reason to believe it can be done successfully.”

Hoad said it has not yet been determined when the task force will meet.