Week-old smoking ban sees mixed response

When Courtney Ettel and Tonya Weed, seniors majoring in criminology, sat outside Cooper Hall during their Tuesday night Spanish class and pulled out cigarettes, they said they could feel all eyes in the vicinity turn to them.

As soon as we sat down, we had people look at us, Ettel said. Smoking has become more frowned upon than it was last week. They scared (the smokers) all off. We dont know where to go now.

One week after the implementation of a campus-wide partial smoking ban, and other smokers at USF are still adjusting to the new rules.

Ettel, who said shes seen few smokers on campus since the policys implementation last Tuesday, said the policy targets smokers unfairly.

I think theres just as many smokers here as non-smokers, so for them to discriminate against smokers and prefer non-smokers, its a little bit stuck up of the University to look down on us, she said.

The partial ban was implemented after a task force identified 19 percent of USFs population as smokers and broke into subcommittees that identified the 25 areas where smoking is now permitted.

But Weed said the areas are often far from class and inconveniently located.

There are more non-smoking sections than smoking sections on campus, she said. I think it could be a little more fair. It makes you afraid to smoke because youre worried your cigarette is going to offend someone.

Beverly Douglas, special assistant to Vice President for Administrative Services Sandy Lovins, led the task force meetings, and said some resistance was expected, but the change overall has been drastic.

We went into this initiative knowing these things take time, she said. While USF isnt asking people to quit smoking, we do recognize the shift is asking people to change behaviors and habits, like smoking while walking to class or smoking at a favorite table. Weve noticed a dramatic improvement in smoking.

Douglas said since the ban was implemented, only one official complaint has been made, after a student filed a complaint when a group of students smoking in a non-smoking area outside Cooper Hall refused to stop.

Douglas said she and Dean of Students Kevin Banks went to the group of students and spoke to them, explaining the policy and listening to their feedback. To her knowledge, she said, the students stopped smoking in non-smoking zones.

Were continuing to listen to what people are saying, Douglas said. We have had a lot of people thank us. I dont think people realize how many people are directly impacted from secondhand smoke.

Some students with conditions like chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and asthma have said they were previously unable to enter some buildings on campus, Douglas said.

With something like asthma, you dont see it on someone, she said. Its not just lung cancer, but an immediate and serious medical concern. People now have the same equal opportunity to get an education as everybody else.

Though the ban was discussed for more than a year, Ettel and Weed said the change came about too quickly.

I feel like it was pretty immediate, Ettel said. They just sent out an email saying Hey, were putting up smoking designated areas next week. There was no notice. It was like We got to do this by tomorrow. Everybody quit smoking.

Douglas said USF will continue to spread awareness about the new policy.

This isnt something that we announce and then we drop, she said. It will take a while to assimilate. Part of the long-term commitment is ensuring that everyone is educated.