The days when USM students can light up a smoke or dip into a tin of chewing tobacco on campus may be numbered.

Citing the harmful effects of secondhand smoke, lax enforcement of the current smoking policy and a desire to reduce tobacco use at USM, the Tobacco Policy Committee, led by USM Health Promotion Manager Suzanne Roy, is pushing for a ban of all tobacco products on campus.

Opponents of the ban have argued it’s a violation of students’ free will. “Grown adults should not be told what to do,” said outgoing Student Body President Ashley Willems-Phaneuf. “I’m not endorsing smoking, but I do endorse students’ rights.”

Willems-Phaneuf said she is frustrated the issue is even being discussed while issues like parking, tuition costs and high textbook prices continue to affect the USM community. “It’s a waste of time,” she said. “Smokers need to be considerate, but what right do we have to tell them not to smoke?”

Current USM tobacco policy prohibits smoking in any building on campus, as well as athletic fields, and restricts smokers to designated areas a minimum of 50 feet from buildings.  The policy is widely ignored, however, and smokers can often be found congregating in smoke-free areas.

Critics of a potential ban have pointed to the lackluster enforcement of current policy, asking how an even stricter policy would be enforced. Roy said the committee has not yet discussed enforcement, though she said they would like a new policy to be based on self-policing. “I really think people will act in good faith,” she said.

Roy did not rule out the use of fines to enforce a ban, though she said the committee has not yet spoken with the Department of Public Safety to gauge their willingness to hand out fines to smokers.

The potential ban was the subject of a referendum question in the recent Student Government Elections to gauge student opinion. Just over 50 percent of voters disapproved of a tobacco ban.

Senior sociology major Shannon Gilchrist said she was against banning tobacco use on campus. “It’s a public university, so people should be allowed to smoke,” she said.

Because the decision was so close, the Student Senate voted on the issue in their weekly meeting Friday in Portland, agreeing on a resolution against the adoption of a tobacco ban. The senate instead encouraged looking into “alternative methods” of enforcing the current policy.

Student Senate Chair Alie Parker said the senate did not feel comfortable endorsing an outright ban of tobacco products, especially for residential students. “The senators felt it was not appropriate to tell students in Gorham they can’t smoke on campus, especially when they live there,” she said.

The Faculty Senate discussed the issue at their meeting Friday at the Lewiston-Auburn campus,  and decided to reconsider tobacco policy at its next meeting in May.

USM President Selma Botman said the administration is waiting to hear from the various recommending bodies like the student, faculty and staff senates before making any new policy decision.

According to Roy, the committee would like to reduce secondhand smoke and litter from tobacco users. But she said it is also the committee’s goal to provide information to help smokers quit.

“This isn’t meant to exclude smokers,” Roy said. “It’s also meant to help them.”

Roy said the committee began pushing for a campus-wide tobacco ban following the initiation of a similar policy at the University of Maine in January.

The University of Maine announced the tobacco ban on its campus in February 2010, and instituted the policy in January, though for the first year the policy will be voluntary.

According to Michael Shepherd, editor-in-chief at The Maine Campus, the ban is unpopular with UMaine students. Shepherd said some students see it as a violation of their rights, while others just find it confusing.”There’s never been any detailed enforcement policy, leaving a lot of people thinking it’s not legitimate,” he said.


  1. this is ridiculous. the campus in Lewiston has a designated smoke pit that i see people use and i never see smokers walking up to a building with a cigarette in their hand. What kind of second hand smoke are we talking about? second hand smoke from a person smoking a cigarette as they walk by? and putting a ban on tobacco use would also put a ban on people bringing it in their vehicles. and could we smoke in our vehicles on campus then? and what about chewing tobacco? that doesnt hurt anyone but the user. and if they spit into a bottle then who cares? its their right! i dont ask what you do with your water bottle why does it only matter if someone spits tobacco into it? would it make a difference if was just spit?

    • I cannot comment on the Lewiston campus, but specifically to USM’s Portland campus as a non-smoker. I believe the second hand smoke referred to is around major entrances/exits to the three main buildings on campus, those being Luther Bonnie, Payson Smith, and the science building. There is almost a constant number of 15-20+ smokers outside violating the 50ft rule, especially in inclement weather so you must walk through a cloud of smoke to enter any of these buildings. It is not uncommon for me to need to knock on the door coming out of the stair side door (not the one next to the skywalk) at Luther Bonnie because smokers are blocking the exit huddling under the eve smoking.

      As for chew, I have seen it used in class and it is a distraction (not to mention disgusting) to have someone spitting constantly in a bottle. If someone is unable to go 75 minutes without using a tobacco product perhaps school should not be their highest priority.

      I have no problem with people smoking on campus, but they simply don’t follow the rule. The problem is enforcement, because the policy isn’t enforced in any capacity and unfortunately it needs to be or a total ban needs to be put in place.

  2. We are adults here at USM and we don’t need Suzanne’s help to quit smoking and students smoking should be no excuse to ban smoking on campus.

  3. I am a commuter who utilizes the shuttle bus and most of the USM buildings on both campuses. I have to endure second hand smoke almost everywhere I go. If smoking was like swearing or worship, i.e., people could do it their own free time to their hearts’ content, I would have no problem with people smoking themselves to death. Go for it! However, inconsiderate and lawbreaking smokers who stand grouped together in front of the “Smoke Free Zone” signs outside every building billowing a cloud of poison that I am forced to breathe is crossing the line.

    Smoking should be banned on all campus property except for a few designated areas in remote locations. Students should have policing power. End of problem

  4. I am in favor of a smoking ban in all but certain areas if it is enforced, not like the current policy. Why have the 50 ft. rule if it is not enforced? I am tried of having to hold my breath when entering one of the USM buildings. I don’t care if people smoke but as a non-smoker, it is when it affects others that its a problem.

  5. I hate secondhand smoke as much as anyone, but I went to SMCC for two years and I have to say that smoking here is nowhere NEAR as bad as it is there. That campus is really one giant smoke cloud. People smoke in the walkways, they smoke right in the entrances of buildings, they smoke everywhere. I found myself holding my breath every single time I was walking to class because people at SMCC are always blowing smoke in your face. My point is that people may be annoyed by smoking at USM, but all they need to do is take a trip to South Portland and see that it could be A LOT worse.

  6. As a smoker this really makes me are all these people saying second hand smoke is really bothering us but not one of these people have mentioned all the gas powered trucks that pull up to luther bonney every day with there motors running.I wonder how many cigaretts it takes to make up one truck that pulls between luther bonney and masterton hall on average there are about 10 trucks a day.Why arent people complaining about this?We have more important maters to discuss like why is tuition so high?

  7. I’ve heard many people say we have the right to smoke. This is not true. No where in the US Constitution are the citizens of the United States granted the right to bear tobacco products. Second-hand smoke is an assault. And we do have the right NOT to be assaulted.

    Also, it seems there are those who believe rules, laws, and policies should only be followed if they are enforced. Why would individuals seeking the means to higher education and enlightenment need to be forced into being considerate of others? If the current policy is not working because tobacco users refuse to follow this policy, the next step is logically to simply not allow tobacco use on USM property and fine those who do. Perhaps these fines can be used to lower tuition dollars and everyone will be happy.


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