Petitions for a smoke-free campus fill the air
Published: Wednesday, October 17, 2012
Updated: Wednesday, October 17, 2012 22:10
Smokers may have to put their cigarettes out for good if one proposal becomes official.
The University Benefit Advisory Council released a proposal for a smoke-free campus at the end of last semester, after the Office of Institutional Research conducted a study on the prevalence of smoking tobacco on campus.
The survey found that 26 percent of students who smoke at UVM began after they were living on campus.
It was this figure that really surprised the council, chair of the council Jen Carney said.
“Smoking has caused chronic diseases,” Carney said. “We’re trying now to prevent health complications for the staff, faculty and students.”
The Burlington City Council tried to pass a downtown smoking ban in 2009, but it failed due to the concerns business owners had that a smoking ban would deter potential customers, said Rep. Karen Paul of Ward 6.
“I think UVM will be more successful than the council was,” Paul said.
SGA remains neutral on the situation and the Committee on Diversity, Equity and Environmental Ethics (CODEEE) will merely pass the report over to the administration, Chair of CODEEE Aya Al-Namee said.
“This is much different than Church Street,” Al-Namee said. “More people live on campus; you cannot compare this campus to a group of restaurants and businesses for tourists.”
The University Benefit Advisory Council proposed the implementation of several project milestones over a three-year period in their report. Students would not see a smoke-free campus until the third year and feedback from the campus community and neighbors would be considered as well.
“The report was released last semester, but not much was done over the summer about it,” SGA President Connor Daley said. “There’s a lot of labor involved with cleaning up cigarettes, and budget costs have tightened things up.”
One major incentive with installing the plan is the impact a tobacco ban would have on the insurance policy for staff, he said. There could be vision, hearing and dental benefits associated with a smoking ban on campus.
Barbara Johnson, who works in the human resources department at UVM, said that a smoking ban could also curb the unsightly problem of cigarette butts, which tend to accumulate on campus.
If this passed, there would be programs set up to help people stop smoking and limit further health complications, Johnson said.
“People from the physical plant weighed in quickly on the litter problems associated with cigarette butts,” Johnson said. “It was very surprising to hear this because a lot of custodial services workers smoke cigarettes.”
Junior Matt Gargiulo said he is concerned about the effects that cigarette smoking can cause.
“People do not realize that when they flick their butts on the ground, that it is actually littering and the chemicals from the cigarettes go directly into our watershed,” he said.
The report identified several potential barriers that could halt the shift to a smoke-free campus, including student and administrative resistance, infringement on an individual’s right to smoke and problems with enforcing a ban.
First-year Dakota Kashchy said the ban would be inconvenient because so many people smoke on campus and if it is outside, it’s not harming anyone.
First-year James Mugele said he agreed.
“I don’t think the ban will matter if it happens,” he said. “I feel like people are definitely still going to smoke on campus either way.”
If the smoking ban becomes a reality, UVM would be following a trend that has now taken place at 814 colleges nationwide, up from 420 in July 210,according to report issued by Americans for Nonsmokers’ Rights.
The next University Benefit Advisory Council meeting is Nov. 8 from 8:30 a.m. to 10:30 a.m. The meeting is open to students, staff and faculty and there will be an audience response time during the meeting for feedback.