Campus-wide smoking ban to take effect July 1

Erin Kirkland/Daily
Ann Arbor resident Jon Moodie smokes outside of the Hatcher Graduate Library on Sunday, June 19, 2011. Starting in July, the campus will become smoke-free and smoke-free stickers already adorn building doors belonging to the University. "The ban is probably a good thing. I'm always trying to quit and I think it has been effective in bars and clubs," said Moodie. (ERIN KIRKLAND/Daily) Buy this photo

By Bethany Biron, Editor in Chief
and Younjoo Sang, Daily Staff Reporter
Published June 19, 2011

As signs begin to appear along the perimeter of campus signifying the imminent arrival of the campus-wide smoking ban that takes effect on July 1, University officials and students are preparing for the upcoming change.

The ban is part of a University initiative to engage the campus in a “process of social change” that will encourage healthier living, according to Robert Winfield, the University’s chief health officer, director of the University Health Service and co-chair of the Smoke-Free University Steering Committee.

According to the Smoke-Free University Initiative Report released in January and developed by the Smoke-Free University Steering Committee, the ban will allow smoking only on sidewalks adjacent to public roads on the campuses of all three branches of the University — Ann Arbor, Dearborn and Flint — and in the privacy of one’s own vehicle.

In regard to enforcement of the ban, Winfield said students who fail to comply will have a complaint filed with the Office of Student and Conflict Resolution where they will undergo a mediation process before consequences are determined.

For faculty who refuse to adhere to the ban’s requirements, Winfield said they will face a standard disciplinary process that may lead to a supervisor placing them in a smoking cessation program. If they continue to smoke on campus property, Winfield said this could “ultimately lead to serious disciplinary action or discharge.”

Winfield said that students and faculty members who may struggle with quitting smoking as a result of the new policy have a multitude of resources available to them. Over-the-counter products — such as nicotine patches and gum — will be given out free, and prescriptions will be provided for a small co-pay for those who are insured.

Marsha Benz, alcohol and other drugs health educator at the University, said that similar to faculty members, students will have the opportunity to engage in smoking cessation programs on both Central and North Campus, either individually or in classes with other smokers.

According to Benz, only about 14 percent of undergraduates smoke, and of this group most are just social smokers who smoke fairly minimally.

“Most of those students are smoking between one and five cigarettes a week, so they’re not smoking a lot,” Benz said. “And we hear a lot that they’re smoking maybe when they go to the bar, maybe a couple cigarettes here and there.”

However, in order to effectively send their message to student smokers who may be facing addiction, Benz said the University held various focus groups with both smokers and non-smokers alike to better determine how to help students, concluding that free cessation aids would be the best route of action.

She added that the most prevalent issue she found among the smoking group is they don’t want to be “harassed” into not smoking, but rather instructed as to where to find resources and help available to them, as well as to learn how they could be better spending their money.

“They don’t want to be preached to,” Benz said. “They don’t want to be told about the black lung and all that kind of stuff — they know. Essentially they all wanted to quit, it was just when they were going to quit that was the question and they wanted to be reminded of was how much it was costing them to smoke and what types of things they could be spending their money on instead.”

Winfield said that while reducing secondhand smoke played a small role in enacting the ban, it was ultimately part of a larger initiative to instill a “culture of health” on campus through establishing a more healthful living environment.

He added that the ban is particularly important for faculty and staff members, since they often stay on campus for upwards of 10 to 30 years — rather than the four of a typical undergraduate — and thus are affected by the implication of the ban for a longer period of time. Winfield added that smokers in the workplace are given additional sick days and often have more breaks than their non-smoking counterparts, which often impedes productivity.

Benz echoed Winfield’s sentiments about establishing a healthier environment, saying that smoking is a habit that individuals start at a young age, and by forcing them not to engage with the activity at all, can ultimately prevent addiction that may develop in college.

“Smoking is really a behavior of childhood,” Benz said. “People start smoking when they’re in junior high and high school here and there. They become regular smokers once they come to college though. If we can get them maybe before they end up becoming regular smokers, the chances of them being dependent once they leave school is much, much lower.”

According to Winfield, the idea for the ban first came to fruition five years ago when three student officer members of the Residence Halls Association became bothered by the fact that they could order student smokers to stand farther away from dorms to prevent smoke from filtering in, but not faculty members. The group met with Winfield and Loren Rullman, associate vice president for student affairs, who began to discuss making the University smoke free.

Many students, both smokers and non-smokers alike, seemed largely supportive of the upcoming smoking ban.

LSA junior Tim Hausler, who is a smoker, said that he didn’t mind the smoking ban because he will still be able to smoke in other areas.

“To me, it doesn’t matter all that much,” Hausler said. “Because of the fact that it’ll still be legal in the city property.”

Kevin Joseph, a chemical engineering junior, said that he thought the ban was useful, as he used to live in the dorms and could remember smelling people smoking outside the dorm buildings.

Joseph added that he would prefer to not be subjected to secondhand smoke and the dangers associated with it while being on campus.

“I’m pretty sure most of the student population doesn’t smoke since they’re educated of the dangers, so they’re not likely to smoke,” Joseph said. “I think that they would appreciate it.”