Students are still taking issue with the implementation of USM’s tobacco ban in Gorham since the university went tobacco-free last year.
Students at USM want to see administration work and listen to them to make the tobacco ban more suited to the needs of the Gorham campus.
In the second semester since USM put its campus-wide smoking ban into effect, some people still stand behind it as a good idea while others continue to argue that it is a violation of smokers’ rights. However, both smokers and nonsmokers have said that its execution has been far from flawless.
Many students have said that the ban’s implementation in Gorham specifically needs change, whether that mean more lenience or more enforcement of the rules so that it will actually be obeyed. “When I lived in the dorms, before the ban went into effect, I found it difficult to deal with the change. [The] administration needs to make some improvements or compromises on the ban for the Gorham campus because people live there,” said Jessica Rogalus, a junior history major.
The ban’s aim was to stop all tobacco use on campus and even prohibits non-tobacco products, such as e-cigarettes. “The new Tobacco-free Policy states that e-cigarettes are not allowed to be used on campus. The state of Maine, along with the FDA, view e-cigarettes as a tobacco product as it contains nicotine and uses a similar delivery device as a cigarette.” Suzanne Roy, USM’s health promotion manager, said shortly after the ban was put into action.
“Staff have told me they know students who, because of the ban, have taken the step to quit smoking. Those of us who don’t use tobacco are relieved to see a cleaner, tobacco-free campus. Others, who have allergies to smoke, are very relieved as well,” said Judie O’Malley, the assistant director at the USM office of Public Affairs.
The lack of compliance on the Gorham campus put stress on non-smoking students who lived in dorms. “No one used to smoke near buildings because you had to be 50 feet away. Now it’s like the 50 foot rule doesn’t exist. It took two months for Residential Life or even the police to do anything about it. Every night we would have to yell out the window for smokers to get out from under our window,” said Stephanie Dodier, a senior communications major.
“The USM Dean of Students and USM Police Safety staff, continue to monitor areas where smoking violations are taking place on campus. They have spoken with persons who are using tobacco on campus grounds to remind them to refrain from using tobacco,” Roy said of the process in dealing with continued smoking on campus.
For some students, the ban made them want to move off campus entirely. “The ban was a small factor in the reason I moved. It surprised me how it seems that the student body has little to no say in campus issues such as the smoking ban,” said Rogalus, who is a smoker.
“We feel the tobacco ban has been a success on all three campuses. Occasionally, I ask my colleagues around USM how it is going and I’ve heard that while there may be small pockets of non-compliance, for the most part, the tobacco ban is being observed,” O’Malley said.
Though some see things they would like to change, other students are relieved that USM is now tobacco-free. “My dad has had lung cancer twice in his life; right now it’s stage four, and he’s never smoked a day in his life. Secondhand smoke is actually really damaging, and cigarette butts everywhere are gross. The world is not your trash can,” Dodier said.
When the tobacco ban was first introduced, a group of students worked hard to try and prevent it from becoming a reality. “I am not trying to stop the tobacco ban anymore. It’s pointless, and I can’t do anything to change it. I feel almost defeated about it,” said Ana Worthing, a senior psychology major who was one of the students who protested the ban. “The president has made up her mind,” she said. “At this time it’s a done deal and set in stone.”
The ban is a group effort of everyone who attends USM. “One of the ways to succeed in creating a safe and healthy environment is for each of us to own our responsibility to respectfully approach persons who are ignoring the tobacco policy to remind them that this policy has been adopted to protect the health of everyone from exposure to secondhand smoke, a serious health hazard that is avoidable,” said Roy.
Now that the ban has been put into action, both the pro-ban and anti-ban students agree that a lot remains to be done with the ban. Both sides have a lot of ideas for what they would like to see happen in the future and hope that the administration will eventually talk to them and consider their opinions.