Since the University banned smoking on campus in July 2011, officials say they have seen a decrease in smoking among students, faculty and staff, and a generally cleaner and healthier campus environment.
Robert Winfield, co-chair of the Smoke-Free University Steering Committee and the University’s chief health officer, said he has noticed a decrease in smoking on campus since the smoke-free policy was enacted last summer.
Winfield referenced the University’s annual Student Life Survey — which collects data through the Substance Abuse Research Center — to solidify the claim that smoking is decreasing on campus as a result of the ban.
The most recent data from 2011 indicates a drop in self-reported tobacco use, from 14 percent before the policy to 9.2 percent afterward. According to Winfield, a separate survey following a cohort of faculty from 2009 to 2011 indicates that smoking percentages have dropped from 6.2 percent in 2009 to 4.6 percent in 2011.
Smoking is only allowed on sidewalks next to public roads, on University owned roads that the public funds and in privately owned vehicles.
As of July 2012, 774 colleges and universities in the United States have also banned smoking, according to . The report further indicates that the number of smoke-free campuses increased from 420 in July 2010 to 530 in July 2011.
Winfield said the on-campus transition has gone relatively smoothly, largely because it shied away from aggressive enforcement and focused more on lifestyle changes.
“Overall, I would say this has been successful,” he said. “What I think is special about it is that we have chosen to not have a heavy hand in enforcement. We’re working hard to try and make sure that there’s a high level of respect. I think that’s tremendously important.”
Kenneth Warner, co-chair of the Smoke-Free University Steering Committee and former dean of the School of Public Health, said though the new program has been effective, problems are bound to arise with the implementation of any new policy.
“I don’t see a whole lot of smoking on campus, (but) I do see it occasionally,” Warner said. “There are laws against drunk driving, but people drive drunk … There is no policy of any consequence that is not violated to some extent.”
While people still smoke on campus, Winfield said the policy has visually lessened the number of smokers, especially near the Michigan Union, the Michigan League and other prominent buildings.
“Not only has the visual count of people who are smoking dropped, but the amount of cigarette butts in many of these (popular) locations has dropped,” Winfield said.
Marsha Benz, a health educator at the University Health Service, said there are programs available at UHS through the Tobacco Consultation Service for smokers at trying to nix the habit.
Along with behavioral counseling services, Benz said TCS and UHS offer free nicotine replacement products, such as patches and gum, to help smokers hoping to quit.
Though LSA junior Miranda Kahn acknowledged the environmental benefits associated with the smoking ban, she said the choice to smoke should ultimately be made by each person.
“It promotes healthy environment and promotes clearing the air, but in the sense of the issue of free will, that can also be something that is in conflict,” Kahn said. “I believe that if someone chooses to smoke that is their own personal choice.”
Kahn said her friend was once reprimanded for smoking outside a library, and Kahn thought the breach of protocol was handled effectively.
“He came back saying that a couple of people had come up to him, advising him of the rules,” she said. “I thought that was great that there were people who were being verbal about (the smoke-free policy) and they were expressing to him their concern.”