Campus smoking ban causes mixed reactions

With the looming implementation of a peer-enforced tobacco-free campus policy, students have voiced their concerns.

The ability for students to smoke on campus is about to go up in flames, leaving students with mixed reactions.

As of January 4, USF’s Tampa campus will join USF St. Petersburg and USF Sarasota-Manatee in being smoke-free. The ban will cover tobacco products, e-cigarettes and hookahs. 

Previously, USF just wasn’t ready for a campus-wide smoking ban, as determined by the Tobacco Use Task Force President Judy Genshaft created in 2011 to steer USF gradually towards the goal. 

USF Attorney Steven Prevaux told the Tampa Tribune that a larger number of students than usual gave their two cents during a comment period about the smoking policy, a majority of which were for the ban.

Students like Nick Gollab, a senior in nursing, believe the ban will do a lot of good for campus.

“I believe … in the long term, it’ll not only benefit us but our bio-friendly campus,” Gollab said.

Venkata Gabbi, a master’s student in information systems, believes the ban “should be done.” He is from India, where he said smoking is banned in public places. 

Sade Cudjoe, a junior majoring in nursing, also agrees with the ban. She previously attended Valencia College where smoking is banned on campus. At Valencia, she said, people would still smoke, but recalled her friend would stand on the public sidewalks next to campus to smoke. She understands students who smoke will be effected, but thinks the anger will be short lived.

“They’ll be mad but they’ll probably get used to it after a while,” Cudjoe said.

Students such as Milli Schlafly, a sophomore majoring in mechanical engineering, doesn’t mind smoking if it’s isolated, but sometimes doesn’t like walking by smoking areas like the one on the side of the library. She also recognizes the ban may pose a challenge for smokers on campus. 

“I can see that being difficult for them,” Schlafly said.

Jack Defant, a junior majoring in biomedical sciences, thinks USF’s effort for cleaner air on campus is good, but also worries about the harm the ban may do. He’s worried students who want to smoke but may not be able to get off campus to do so may just find a secluded area to go smoke instead of abiding by the ban.

Brad Mostowski, a freshman majoring in mathematics, said people might see more cigarette butts laying around. 

“I mean, if you put a tobacco ban on campus then smoking is only bad if people see you do it (or) people report you doing it,” he said.

He doesn’t agree with the campuswide smoking ban, calling it “a little ridiculous” and “kind of disappointing.”

“I’d hate to see the cops and hate to see the students have reasons to go harass people that want to smoke and mind their own business. I’d hate to see the side effects of … what (people) are going to try to do to avoid the smoking ban,” Mostowski said.

He feels there are bigger problems to go after than smoking, and said campus smokers aren’t doing anything wrong when sticking to smoking areas. He doesn’t think smoking should be allowed everywhere on campus, but keeping it in an area where the only people exposed to the smoke are in the area is enough.

Mostowski is not a smoker, but has friends and roommates who do smoke and who, he said, generally mind their own business. Smokers shouldn’t be getting in trouble, he said, and the excuse that USF should ban smoking because it is bad for people’s health isn’t a good enough reason, because the ban is just coming after people.

The ban is currently set to be peer-enforced, the same enforcement method currently in place for the designated smoking areas. It is this enforcement method which makes some students lose faith in the efficiency of the program.

Defant said he would report someone smoking on campus, but others weren’t so sure.

Cudjoe feels like people won’t be willing to call each other out.

“I think people are going to mind their own business, basically,” she said.

Schlafly admits she would show bias in the situation, as she would be less likely to report her friends. She is for the ban but is unsure of if or how she would report total strangers.

Gabbi doesn’t think peer enforcement will be efficient, thinking a small fine would be more effective.

“Unless there’s a penalty, it’s not going to work,” he said. 

Gollab is also uncertain of how peer enforcement will work. He said he would report someone if given the resources to do so, but worries about accountability.

“I don’t feel like each peer will uphold their responsibility for every individual they see smoking,” he said.

In 2012, surveys put the number of smokers at USF at four percent of student population and 19 percent of faculty and staff, according to the Tribune. The American Cancer Society reports that “(among) adults age 18 and older, about 20 (percent) of men and 3 (percent) of women have ever used smokeless tobacco.

An ABC News report showed the percentage among college students may be a little higher than USF’s figures from 2012.

According to ABC News, “A third of the students said they had used a tobacco product — cigarettes, chewing tobacco and increasingly, cigars — in the last four weeks, indicating they were current users, and nearly half of the students admitted they had used tobacco in the past year.”

Mostowski said he’d like to see USF expand resources to help people quit smoking. The university currently offers free smoking cessation services for employees, students and the community through USF’s Area Health Education Center (AHEC). USF AHEC also offers brochures and other resources through their Tobacco Training and Cessation Program.