University introduces new campus smoking policy

University+introduces+new+campus+smoking+policy

Story by Eric Christenson

There’s an old saying, “If you smoke, take your butts outside,” but what if just going outside wasn’t enough?

Effective May 1, UW-Eau Claire’s new smoking policy will prohibit smoking on campus with the exceptions of ten designated smoking areas on lower campus, eight on upper and on city-owned streets.

Assistant to the Chancellor for Affirmative Action Teresa O’Halloran said smoking couldn’t be banned outright because it wouldn’t work, considering the requirement for  students to live on campus for a year.

“Although policy-wise, smoking should be discouraged because it’s bad for you and for others,” she said. “But we do have adult people who have to live here to be here and to ban it outright wouldn’t be fair.”

Despite the new policy, junior economics major Mahmoud Ahmed said that smokers probably won’t adhere to the designated smoking areas.

“I definitely won’t follow it,” Ahmed said.  “Since there really are no signs saying what the ramifications will be for smoking, no one’s going to really follow it.”

Nonetheless, Eau Claire is no stranger to changes in smoking policy.

The changes started in November 2009 with a Student Senate bill to take a comprehensive look at second-hand exposure to cigarette smoking.

Then in May 2010, Student Senate passed a resolution to revise the policy before passing another resolution in December 2010 with the goal of creating a sensible smoking policy on campus.  At the same time, University Senate was proposing a bill that would make Eau Claire completely tobacco-free, but Student Senate opposed that idea.

O’Halloran said Chancellor Brian Levin-Stankevich preferred the Student Senate plan and put together a committee to work out a policy that would deter smoking in areas on campus with heavy foot traffic, but wouldn’t fully ban tobacco use.

Grounds Services Supervisor Randy Palmer said he was involved because he and the grounds crew are the ones “that have to pick up the cigarette butts and do the physical aspects of (cleaning).”

Palmer added he supported the idea to allow smoking on campus and helped the committee decide some of the groundwork for the new policy.

“I think personally that smokers have some rights here too,” he said. “I guess I’m more the compromiser.  I feel they should have some places on campus that would okay for them to smoke.”

One of the designated areas on lower campus is outside of the Zorn Arena loading docks, very near to the Children’s Center playground.

Rebecca Wurzer, director of the Children’s Center, said that this isn’t much of a concern because the Center is moving right after graduation this semester in order for construction to begin on the new Education building.

Even though the policy goes into effect on May 1 and the Center moves in late May, Wurzer said people don’t frequently use that area anyway.

“It hasn’t been a problem now.  Not very many students go over there and pretty soon there’ll be construction over here,” she said.  “If we were going to stay here, it would (be a problem), but I think we’re OK.”

Ahmed said that if the university really hopes to implement the policy and have it be effective, they need some sort of consequence for students that smoke in
non-designated areas.

“If they had on the smoking signs what they would do, what kind of fines they would implement,” he said, “then I think the students would be more aware and they would follow the rules more.”

In the new policy, there is no mention of any sort of enforcement or fine system, something that Ahmed and junior finance major Kerry Rick agreed won’t make students use the designated areas.

“I don’t think anyone will (smoke in the designated areas), to be honest,” Rick said.  “Unless they have consequences, I don’t think anyone’s going to stop smoking where they smoke.”