Tuesday, June 27th, 2017

Students and faculty debate over tobacco ban

With the January smoking ban quickly approaching, students can't seem to break the habit.
Melissa Smith/ The Free Press
With the January smoking ban quickly approaching, students can't seem to break the habit.

Posted on September 17, 2012 in Uncategorized
By Brian Saxton

In January USM will begin taking the initial steps in making its campuses Tobacco-free. There will be much debate on campus in the few short months that tobacco users can freely smoke, dip or chew on campus property.
A poll taken back in 2010 by the USM Tobacco Policy Committee showed that a majority of students, faculty and staff members favor the ban, because it will eliminate hazardous exposure to secondhand smoke and tobacco products on campus. President Theo Kalikow says that it’s about the concern for the public’s health, referring to the dangerous effects of secondhand tobacco usage.
USM’s Bob Caswell, executive director of public affairs, says that it’s not about making people quit but about eliminating the usage on campus.
Since as early as 2002, USM has been working towards a healthier working and living environment on campus. From then on, more than 770 colleges and universities have added a smoke free policy. From the University of Maine system, Orono and Farmington have already added a ban. In January of 2013, USM and the university of Maine Augusta will adopt the policy. Suzanne Roy, health promotion manager says that within the year of 2013, the remaining three campuses are planning to add the policy.
“USM has assumed responsibility to its students, faculty and staff, to provide a safe and healthy environment to live, learn and work. Research continues to show that tobacco use in general, in addition to the effects of secondhand smoke, constitutes a significant health hazard. Tobacco-free policies remove needless exposure to preventable tobacco related illness.” Roy said.
Questions remain about how the policy will be enforced.

“The University’s role is to provide education, resources and support reminders, for successful implementation of the tobacco-free policy.” Roy says. Officials were vague when responding to questions about enforcement of the policy.
In a statement Roy said repeat offenders will be subject to disciplinary procedures that will be used as necessary and appropriate for the violations. Any students with any questions about the enforcement can contact the Office of Community Standards. Employees can contact the Department of Human Resources.
The current smoking policy allows smoking only in the designated areas, but that policy is seen as a failure. “Most campuses find that banning tobacco is much more effective…designated areas are much harder to keep track of.” Caswell said. People continue to smoke outside designated areas, regardless of signs posted clearly stating the areas.
On a walk around campus groups of people can be seen hanging out and smoking. So will the ban affect USM?

Roy doesn’t think so.

“The majority of the campus community won’t have to alter habits when the campus goes tobacco-free.” In the colleges that have already enacted a ban on tobacco, reports show that it has been easier to observe than a tobacco policy that allows smoking only in designated areas.
The Surgeon General’s Report from 2012 stated that tobacco usage among 18-25 year olds is the highest, where nine out of ten smokers started by the time they were 18. The report went on to say that 70 percent of smokers in this age group have tried to stop tobacco usage.

“A tobacco-free campus policy provides an environment that is conducive and supportive of tobacco cessation,” says Roy.

In the state of Maine, less than 19 percent of adults use tobacco products.

The report also stated that tobacco-free policies have been proven to decrease the current smoking rates among students and decrease the amount of cigarettes used by those who will continue to smoke.  They can also make a positive influence on the perceptions of peer smoking and change social norms around tobacco use while increasing favorable attitudes towards the regulation of tobacco.
Roy added, “The focus of the tobacco-free policy is on tobacco and not the tobacco user. The choice to use or not use tobacco products is left up to each individual. The Tobacco-free policy is being adopted to remove exposure to, and use of tobacco products on all USM campus grounds,” Roy said in a statement, reffering to the dangerous effects of secondhand tobacco usage.

USM’s Bob Caswell, executive director of public affairs, says that it’s not about making people quit but about eliminating the usage on campus.

Since as early as 2002,  more than 770 colleges and universities have added a smoke free policy. From the University of Maine system, Orono and Farmington have already added a ban. In January of 2013, USM and the university of Maine Augusta will adopt the policy as well. Suzanne Roy, health promotion manager says that within the year of 2013, the remaining three campuses are planning to add the policy.

“USM has assumed responsibility to its students, faculty and staff, to provide a safe and healthy environment to live, learn and work. Research continues to show that tobacco use in general, in addition to the effects of secondhand smoke, constitutes a significant health hazard. Tobacco-free policies remove needless exposure to preventable tobacco related illness.” Roy said.

Questions remain about how the policy will be enforced? “The University’s role is to provide education, resources and support reminders, for successful implementation of the tobacco-free policy.” Roy says. Officials were vague when responding to questions about enforcement of the policy.

In a statement Roy said repeat offenders will be subject to disciplinary procedures that will be used as necessary and appropriate for the violations. Any students with any questions about the enforcement can contact the Office of Community Standards. Employees can contact the Department of Human Resources.

The current smoking policy allows smoking only in the designated areas, but that policy is seen as a failure. “Most campuses find that banning tobacco is much more effective…designated areas are much harder to keep track of.” Caswell said. People continue to smoke outside designated areas, regardless of signs posted clearly stating the areas.

“The majority of the campus community won’t have to alter habits when the campus goes tobacco-free,” Roy said.

In the colleges that have already enacted a ban on tobacco, reports show that it has been easier to observe than a tobacco policy that allows smoking only in designated areas.

The Surgeon General’s Report from 2012 stated that tobacco usage among 18-25 year olds is the highest, where 9 out of 10 smokers started smoking by the time they turned 18. The report went on to say that 70% of smokers in this age group have tried to stop tobacco usage. “A tobacco-free campus policy provides an environment that is conducive and supportive of tobacco cessation,” says Roy. In the state of Maine, less than 19% of adults use tobacco products.

Tobacco-free policies have been proven to decrease the current smoking rates among students and decrease the amount of cigarettes consumed by those who will continue to smoke.  They can also make a positive influence on the perceptions of peer smoking and change social norms around tobacco use while increasing favorable attitudes towards the regulation of tobacco.

Roy added, “the focus of the tobacco-free policy is on tobacco and not the tobacco user. The choice to use or not use tobacco products is left up to each individual. The Tobacco-free policy is being adopted to remove exposure to, and use of tobacco products on all USM campus grounds.”