USF discusses completing partial smoking ban

When driving on Leroy Collins Boulevard, passersby see an LED sign planted on the median that reads, “A Healthier Campus Coming Soon! Smoking limited to designated areas Spring 2012.”

As the fall semester comes to a close, however, the designated areas and details of the ban’s implementation have yet to be finalized.

A partial smoking ban is still being discussed within four workgroups, which focus on selecting smoking areas, policy and procedures, communications and education. The Smoking Area Selection Group, made up of faculty, staff and students, held its first discussion, since the partial ban was proposed in 2010, Wednesday afternoon.

Vice President for Administrative Services Sandy Lovins said the designated smoking areas will be at least 50 feet from the main entrance of a building.

Beverly Douglas, special assistant to the vice president, led the meeting and said the partial ban is tentatively scheduled to start mid-semester.

At the beginning of the discussion, members had 41 proposed designated smoking areas, including four areas by Andros, two areas in Greek Village, one by the Library and one by the Florida Mental Health Institute.

Concerns raised included the potential for congestion in some areas, such as having the location by the Library. Members discussed having two locations instead, as well as excluding a smoking area by the Campus Recreation Center and the Champion’s Choice dining hall, since the area is focused on improving health.

Douglas said there would still be a series of meetings to finalize locations and recommendations could be presented to University officials in the next couple of weeks.

“Next, we check out the locations in the daytime and nighttime,” she said. “There could be more (locations). There could be less. It could be entirely changed.”

Student Government Chief Financial Officer Ryan Hebda said he had personal reasons for joining the workgroup.

“I used to smoke, actually,” he said. “When I came to USF, I was a smoker as a freshman, and I recently quit about a month ago. So I felt that my experience as a smoker, over the past couple of years, I could help the workgroup and I can help select spaces that were convenient and spaces that were already popular for smoking.”

Hebda, a senior majoring in economics, said student input is essential during discussions on where to designate smoking areas.

“They are the main body that is going to be affected by this new policy,” he said. “Of course, there are our faculty and staff on campus as well, but there are far more students than faculty. As a former smoker, once again, I know that a lot of students on campus smoke, so it is very important that they get their voices heard.”

Douglas said one purpose of the smoking areas is to contain waste caused by smoking while also encouraging healthy behaviors, which is the purpose of the workgroup focused on education.

“We wanted to make sure we offer a lot of reasons (on why people should stop smoking),” she said. “I’m excited about the opportunity to give people a chance to have a smoke-free environment, and to have that while allowing those who smoke an opportunity to do so.”

Douglas said the Policy and Procedure group is crafting the policy for the initiative, but it’s not yet finalized, and all groups are working on finishing their own plans.

Hebda said he looks forward to the outcome next semester.

“I just hope that, in the end, we can come up with a plan for these designated areas that will most directly benefit the students,” he said. “I hope that they will be happy with what ends up being implemented.”