More students in residence halls may be stepping outside to light up when classes resume in September. The Division of Student Affairs announced Tuesday that all residence halls will be smoke-free starting Sept. 1.
Once the ban takes effect, Michigan State University will be the only remaining Big Ten university to allow smoking in its residence halls.
“We confirm that we will move to entirely smoke-free dorms at the beginning of the 2003 school year,” said University Housing spokesman Alan Levy. He said the restriction will apply to all residence halls but will not affect the Northwood Family Housing on North Campus. Smoking will be permitted in 16 percent of the Northwood apartments.
About 5 percent of residence hall rooms currently allow smoking, Levy said. These rooms house 470 of the 9,400 students in the residence hall system.
Levy said this will be the last step in the University’s drive – which began in 1994 – to slowly phase out smoking in campus buildings. Regulations have whittled down the number of public building and residence hall spaces where smoking is permitted.
Health issues prompted the University’s decision to crack down on smoking in residence halls, according to a written statement.
The statement cited a study from the Harvard University School of Public Health, which found that students are 40 percent less likely to begin smoking if they live in smoke-free residence halls.
University Health Services Director Robert Winfield said in a written statement, “We know that some students come to campus as smokers and we want to be available to them in discontinuing their cigarette use.”
Winfield added that old ventilation systems, which circulate air from smoking rooms to non-smoking rooms, pose health dangers to students with asthma or respiratory conditions and that cigarette smoking also poses a fire hazard in residence halls.
The Residence Hall Association voted to support the University’s decision in November after extensive discussion surrounding student rights within their homes in the residence halls.
Music sophomore Anup Aurora, an RHA representative from Alice Lloyd Residence Hall, said he opposed the move to smoke-free residence halls during the RHA debate.
“To me, the University is based on freedom of choice and the decision to ban smoking takes away that choice,” Aurora said.
LSA sophomore Fernando Moura, an East Quad resident who smokes, said he also believes the ban would infringe on his personal rights. “They have designated spaces (in the residence halls) now, and those designated places should exist.”
The ban would be inconvenient to smokers, Moura said. “It’s just going to make me go outside more. It’s going to be an inconvenience during the winter.”
Aurora said he feels that the University has already made up its mind on the issue. “I think when it was addressed to RHA, it was already decided by the University – they just wanted support,” he said.
Aurora said he supports methods other than an outright ban to address health issues associated with smoking. Moving smoking floors to the top of residence halls would keep smoke from travelling into higher windows, he said.
Levy said the only cost to the University would result from cleaning residence hall rooms previously designated for students who smoked. These rooms will be cleaned to remove stains and burns left by cigarettes and efforts will be made to eliminate odors.