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'U' officials brainstorm plans to implement Smoke Free Initiative

By Stephanie Steinberg, Daily News Editor
Published April 16, 2010

Though the Smoke-Free University Initiative won’t take effect until July 2011, University officials and students are currently working on plans of how to implement the campus-wide smoking ban.

In an exclusive meeting with The Michigan Daily, members of the Smoke-Free University Initiative Student Life Subcommittee and University officials explained that several committees are gathering student, faculty and staff input for deciding how to best provide resources for smokers on campus once the ban is launched.

Simone Himbeault Taylor, associate vice president for the Division of Student Affairs, oversees the Smoke-Free University Initiative Student Life Subcommittee — a committee of 24 students, staff and faculty members from the University’s Ann Arbor, Flint and Dearborn campuses. Taylor said one of the main jobs of the committee is to seek feedback on the smoking ban from University students.

“The whole notion is that our approach should have great transparency; it should have a lot of student involvement,” Taylor said.

Taylor said committee members range from “being militant nonsmokers to militant smokers,” as well as people who are ambivalent about the issue.

“We were quite intentional about having a group of folks that ran the gamut because we felt that that brings the greatest voice to the table,” Taylor said. "And if you can surface what the issues are, you are most likely to make decisions that are based on full input of the community at large, and you know what the controversies are and you can address them.”

Malinda Matney, senior research associate in the Division of Student Affairs, is in charge of gathering student input on the University’s decision to move toward a smoke-free campus.

Last October, Matney compiled a survey that was sent to 5,000 randomly selected University students. The University’s three smoke-free committees — focused on student input; health and wellness; and education — planned to use survey results for determining how to help smokers on campus and make the smoking ban effective.

According to Matney, 1,332 students responded to the survey — a number she said is “pretty miraculous.”

The survey evaluated students on their smoking behaviors. Results showed that about 23 percent of people surveyed reported partaking in smoking behaviors.

Matney said this data, as well as information from the University’s first-year student survey, University Health Service surveys and Counseling and Psychological Services surveys, show that relatively few University students smoke.

Though the majority of students don't smoke, the Smoke-Free survey sought to evaluate how the ban would impact students. When asked "to what extent will a non-smoking campus affect you?", 27.4 percent responded "not at all," while 21.4 percent responded "a great deal." The rest indicated that they would be "slightly," "moderately" or "considerably" impacted.

In addition, the survey asked students to report their ethnicity, gender, origin and involvement in student organizations on campus, among other characteristics.

Despite differences among respondents, Matney said a common theme students articulated in the survey was their concern for fairness for all students, faculty and staff regarding the Smoke-Free University Initiative. She added that many expressed mixed views of the University’s decision.

“The students aren’t of one voice within this,” Matney said. “Some students are very stridently against the initiative, and some students are very stridently in favor of it and saying ‘Let's do it tomorrow. Now. Let's do it now.’”

In March, a similar survey was sent to a new sample of 5,000 students to compare results with those of the first survey and for the smoke-free committees to use for making policy recommendations.

Matney said she is currently sorting through the data. Though she did not have any specific information, she said there was a 10-percent response rate.