UMass students, staff have different opinions on smoking ban
At the beginning of the year, UMass adopted a new tobacco policy that prohibited the use of any tobacco products on campus. However, almost one semester after the policy was first implemented, there are mixed opinions on how effective it has been.
The policy was written by the Faculty Senate’s University Health Council. Associate professor Wilmore Webley, a member of the University Health Council, who played a major role in developing this policy, believes it has been very successful so far.
“I used to walk out of any given building at any given time of day and walk into a puff of smoke and that hasn’t happened since the semester started,” Webley said.
“I’ve seen one person smoking at the entrance or exit of a building … that is a tremendous difference,” he added.
Associate Chancellor Susan Pearson and University Health Services Family Physician Robert Horowitz, members of the Tobacco-Free Policy Implementation Committee, agreed.
According to Horowitz, there is “a lot less smoking on campus” than there was a year ago.
Although some of the people responsible for the policy believe it has been successful, many students disagree.
“I always see people walking around with cigarettes” UMass freshman Sarah Stanley said.
“It’s well-intentioned, but it’s not going to do anything,” added freshman Miles Apfel.
Other students say they have only seen mixed results. According to sophomore Jaice Rottenberg, compliance with the policy is different around campus. Rottenberg said that he sees lots of smoking in particular areas, such as near Butterfield Hall. He also said that he sees cigarette butts littered in places such as in front of the Fine Arts Building.
Some students are even questioning the motives behind the implementation of the policy. Nhan Nguyen, a sophomore, said he believes the policy is only “surface level,” and was implemented to boost the university’s reputation.
According to Webley, Pearson and Horowitz, the policy is not enforced. Instead, students are encouraged to comply voluntarily. However, they acknowledged that violations of the policy do still occur.
“My sense is that things are going well but not perfectly,” Pearson said.
“It will take some time before there’s 100 percent compliance,” she added.
Despite people ignoring the policy, Webley, Pearson and Horowitz remain confident in its effectiveness.
Horowitz estimated that about 80 to 85 percent of the UMass community does not use tobacco.
“I think there are people who are still smoking, but they’re in the minority,” Webley said.
“With continued education and with help from students and faculty and staff who support the policy we think we can get to 100 percent compliance” Pearson said.
According to Webley, Pearson and Horowitz, it is up to all members of the community to ensure that the policy is being followed. Students are encouraged to approach smokers and remind them that UMass is now a tobacco-free campus.
“If you see someone on campus who is violating university policy it is our responsibility to go up to them and in a nice manner say to them, ‘Listen we have a policy on campus that says you should not smoke,’” Webley said.
Webley and Pearson also said that cards that promote the new policy will soon be handed out around campus. These cards can be given to smokers to remind them of the policy.
“As time goes on it will become more successful as more and more people realize that we are serious about this,” Webley said.
According to Webley, education also plays an important role in encouraging compliance with the policy. Webley said that it is important to teach students the dangers of smoking and inhaling second hand smoke.
According to Horowitz, 50,000 people die from second-hand smoke, and 400,000 people die from the effects of smoking every year.
“(There are) people who are walking around with less than their lung capacity, people who are walking around with heart disease, and are still alive who are affected by this,” Webley said.
Pearson also said that by informing smokers of the resources available to them on campus, they can further encourage compliance with the policy.
“We’ve made a lot of resources available to people who either want to try and discontinue their use of tobacco or who want to continue to smoke but are just looking for a way to get through the day,” Pearson said.
Some of these resources include tobacco treatment specialists, counseling and vouchers for nicotine replacement therapies such as gum, lozenges and patches. Horowitz emphasized that people can easily access these resources by calling University Health Services.
To students who protest against the policy, Webley, Pearson and Horowitz argue that it is being implemented to benefit the health of the UMass community.
“The only way to make nonsmokers safe from second-hand smoke was to implement a tobacco-free policy,” Webley said.
UMass is also not the only campus to adopt a tobacco free policy.
“Any college or university who is not tobacco-free in the next 10 years is going to be in the archaic dark ages,” Webley said.
According to Horowitz, the goal of the policy is to benefit the entire campus as a whole. He hopes that, by following this policy, the university can be “part of a sustainable, healthy community.”
Rose Gottlieb can be reached at email@example.com.