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Campuswide partial smoking ban recommended to Genshaft

Students may soon have to put out their cigarettes in some areas of campus.

An advisory task force appointed by USF President Judy Genshaft to explore the benefits of implementing a full smoking ban on the USF Tampa campus emailed a report to the president last Friday recommending that University administrators consider implementing a partial ban.

The partial ban would create designated campus areas for smoking. Everything outside of those areas would be smoke-free. According to the report, the designated areas would be required to be a minimum of 50 feet away from any campus building and away from “doorways, breezeways or other areas in which students must pass through to enter a building or common area.”

Smoking ban task force chairwoman Stephanie Bryant said the decision came after analyzing the results of a survey sent through a central system to USF faculty and students, in addition to researching smoking bans on other campuses. The survey had 8,200 responses and 200 pages of written comments.

“What came through really clearly in the survey, was that a lot of people (say that) smoking is legal and it’s an addiction, and so we don’t really want to ostracize those people or stigmatize them, but we do want to provide a place for them to smoke so that non-smokers don’t have to walk through the smoke,” Bryant said. “One of the big complaints that came up was the Library, the SVC (Student Services) area and the College of Business. The (idea behind the) partial ban is so that smokers can smoke in designated smoking areas that is convenient to smokers.”

Genshaft will meet with the task force May 10 to decide on implementing the partial ban.

Though Bryant said the University has yet to decide where the designated smoking areas will be, some smokers are anticipating that they will be an inconvenience.

Madi Fischer, a sophomore majoring in international business, said her five-minute study breaks to smoke would have to be extended for her to find a designated smoking area, carving out time from her busy schedule.

“I think that it’s unfair, because I’m of legal age to smoke cigarettes,” she said. “It’s one thing (to not allow) drinking on campus, because there are a lot of people who aren’t old enough (to consume alcohol). But most people are over 18 and are allowed to smoke cigarettes.”

Fischer, who spends a few hours on campus daily, said she was not contacted via email to complete the survey and felt the decision was not one that fairly represented smokers.

While only 19 percent of the survey’s respondents identified as smokers, Bryant said the task force conducted interviews and focus group meetings to speak with students who smoke to gain as much perspective as they could.

“The student voice is very, very important to us,” she said. “So we wanted to make sure students had adequate opportunity to tell us how they felt. There was no pre-defined or pre-ordained decision here. We really wanted to explore how the people at USF (felt) about this. This was a very open, honest effort to find out how people feel about this, and boy, do they feel strongly – on both sides of the issue.”

University Spokesman Michael Hoad said so far he has not seen any opposition from administrators to implement the partial ban.

“I was pleased by how many people responded to the survey,” he said. “The report is pretty clear. We would make a decision after the president meets with the task force and then see what it cost (and) whether we could do that through policy change.”

The task force, which has met three times since January, also recommended that they remain intact to continue to evaluate and assess the needs of the partial ban, if implemented, and revisit the possibility of a full ban in one to three years. The group would also offer support to those attempting to quit smoking, educate students about the risks associated with all tobacco forms and inform the campus of the new policies.

Bryant said the policy would apply to all individuals on campus, even those not employed by USF but working in on-campus construction sites. Those individuals were not consulted as part of the survey.

“Anybody who comes on USF campus agrees to comply with the policies of this campus, so they would be expected to comply,” she said. “We did not survey them. We thought about it very carefully, but we thought this is our campus; we have the right to make the rules for our own campus. They would just have to be educated on what those rules are.”

The recommendation for a partial ban on the Tampa campus comes less than a week after USF St. Petersburg announced it would become completely tobacco and smoke-free across the entire campus by spring 2012.

Bryant said, however, that the St. Petersburg campus “really didn’t have a big student voice.”

“It was a faculty-started initiative,” she said. “If anything implemented on this campus is to be successful, the students have to support it and the students have to be behind it.”