Smoking is not uncommon on University property.
Just take a look outside Portland’s Luther Bonney Hall, Gorham’s Bailey Hall or any one of the dorms. Smokers are almost always there.
Some smoke in groups of friends while others smoke alone. Some smoke before class. Some after. And some during.
But smoking on University property may come to an end if a University task force has its way.
The task force, a group of University staff and health officials has drafted a new tobacco policy.
The proposed policy reads, “Smoking is prohibited on all campus grounds; including walkways, athletic fields, lawn areas, parking lots and playgrounds .. specifically, smoking is prohibited in all facilities owned, leased or rented by USM . ”
The University had already decided all dorms would be smoke-free beginning in the fall of 2002.
The task force’s goal is for USM to evolve into a safe and healthful environment by removing the risk of second-hand smoke, according to task force member Pamela Clay-Storm, professional nurse at University Health Services.
“The intent is not to create an anti-smoke campaign,” said Clay-Storm, “but to educate, change the climate to fresh air and remove the risk of exposure.”
But some students believe making all University property smoke-free is going too far.
“Being a smoker, I have a negative outlook on the smoke-free campaign,” said Christopher Daniels, a freshman physics major. “I’d have to leave campus just to smoke.”
“As a non-smoker, I still think it would be taking away the choice and taking away a person’s right to smoke,” said Angie Ellett, an undeclared sophomore.
Clay-Storm said the task force is proposing the new policy because of various complaints from students and staff about smoking on campus.
The current University smoking policy reads, “Smoking is prohibited in all University buildings as well as within 50 feet of handicapped accessible building entrances.”
However, there is little or no enforcement of the current policy, aside from No Smoking signs near entrances. Clay-Storm said if the new proposal is accepted, enforcement wouldn’t be a major priority.
“The police are not going to write tickets for smoking,” she said. “Our concept is not to have punishment.”
Instead, the task force plans to design small business cards that say, “Thank you for helping us keep this place smoke free.”
She said people would give the cards to anyone smoking on campus. The cards are a polite way for students and staff to express their views, said Clay-Storm.
The proposal still needs to gain University approval for it to take effect next year.
Already, the task force has presented the plan to the Student Senate and the Faculty Senate. Both groups have yet to decide whether or not to support the proposal.
Some students say there are better ways to reduce the danger of second-hand smoke than to ban smoking from all University property.
“A choice can’t be made for someone. There has to be balance between smokers and non-smokers,” said Brianne Woodard a junior sociology and economics major. “They should take an area in the middle of campus to designate as a smoking area.”
“If we have funding to create a designated smoking area, we would support such an idea,” said Dave Early, executive director of Facilities Management.
Some say going smoke free will be good for everyone.
“Having to walk through their cloud of smoke bothers my lungs and makes me smell. Smokers need to be considerate,” said Lynn Clements, a senior health fitness major
“Going smoke free doesn’t mean you can’t smoke, it just means there is no smoking in public areas,” she said.
“I quit two years ago,” said Cindy Pape a senior media studies major. “A smoke-free environment would be much easier for a smoker to quit.”
“I’m torn,” said Becky Floyd a senior media studies major. ” I know it’s a dirty and fifthly habit, but in principal, a smoker needs to abide by the rules.”
Maine currently leads the nation with the highest rate of tobacco addiction, according to the Partnership for Tobacco-Free Maine. Nearly one-third of young adults are current smokers.
According to the National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion second-hand tobacco smoke is a carcinogen known to cause cancers and increase the risk of heart disease in non-smokers.
In addition to banning smoking from campus, the task force hopes to create a media campaign with signage to promote positive healthy lifestyles on campus, according to Clay-Storm.
Moreover, University Health services will continue to offer counseling classes to students and staff members including cessation groups designed to promote quitting tobacco through both behavioral counseling and pharmacological therapy.
Clay-Storm said the University could be a role model for healthy choices and gradually the social norm will be not to smoke.
Another Maine university has already developed a smoke-free atmosphere. The University of Maine at Farmington began the process two years ago by establishing a smoke-free corridor walking area on campus. Now it has eliminated smoking in all public areas.
Gorham Editor Erin Zwirn can be contacted at: [email protected]