Students and faculty returning to campus this week may find the air a bit fresher.
More than two months after the implementation of a campus-wide smoking ban, which went into effect July 1, thousands of students have returned to a cleaner campus atmosphere. Despite the change, University officials say they think students will easily adapt to the new policy, and violations of the ban will be handled smoothly.
Robert Winfield, co-chair of the Smoke-Free University Steering Committee, the University’s chief health officer and director of University Health Service, said that while the smoking ban took effect this summer, the full impact of the initiative won’t be felt until students and faculty settle in for the fall semester.
In May 2010, Michigan also instated a smoking ban in public places such as restaurants and bars. Since the push to reduce public smoking has been made at the state and local levels, Winfield said he thinks the University’s ban will be effective in helping people quit smoking.
“The social pressures and state ordinances will influence people to stop smoking,” Winfield said.
With the implementation of the Smoke-Free University Initiative, the University became one of 530 universities with smoking bans, according to a recent report from the American Nonsmokers’ Rights Foundation.
The campus-wide ban has already caused observable changes — enrollment in Tobacco Counseling Services at UHS has increased since July, Winfield said. In addition to counseling services, TCS provides students, faculty and staff with free nicotine patches and gum.
Winfield also noted that he hasn’t seen smokers outside his office at UHS or near the side entrance of the Michigan Union like he did prior to the ban.
But even if people smoke on campus, Jay Wilgus, director of the Office of Student Conflict Resolution, said the University’s Department of Public Safety won’t hand out citations to students for smoking. Instead, OSCR is responsible for enforcing the ban by following up on complaints filed against students smoking on University property.
Repercussions for not complying with the ban will follow the same procedure as the other violations enumerated in the Statement of Student Rights and Responsibilities, Wilgus said. Once a complaint is filed, the offender is required to attend a conflict resolution session or else face repercussions from the University such as withholding academic records or impeding student registration. However, Wilgus said as of Sept. 1, OSCR hasn’t received any complaints.
Since DPS isn’t responsible for dealing with people who don’t comply with the Smoke-Free Initiative unless there is an altercation, supervisors of University employees determine the corollary for noncompliance with the policy, Winfield said. He added that the Smoke-Free University Steering Committee has had inquiries from supervisors asking how to deal with employees who continue to smoke on University property.
The effectiveness of the program will be evaluated when the oversight committee of the Smoke-Free Initiative reconvenes in November, Winfield said. The number of people joining TCS and the number of complaints filed with OSCR and faculty supervisors will be tangible indications of how the smoking ban has made an impact, he added.
LSA sophomore Zachariah Wahid said he supports the University’s Smoke-Free Initiative. However, Wahid said he expects a negative reaction from some students and faculty.
“I think it’s definitely a step towards a healthier campus,” Wahid said. “But at the same time, I know a lot of people are going to be angry about it.”
LSA sophomore Shaun Dass said he’s also in favor of the campus-wide smoking ban, but he hasn’t seen a change in smoking habits on campus.
“I wish there was a better way to enforce (the ban) because I still see people smoking on campus all of the time,” Dass said.