Tobacco ban proposed for UNF

UNF students’ right to light up on campus may go up in smoke.

Healthy Osprey and the Safety Council are proposing a tobacco ban on campus, which would take effect Aug. 2014.

According to the policy proposed for UNF, “Individuals observed using tobacco are to be reminded in a professional and respectful manner of the university policy.”

The proposal also says the university reserves the right to use disciplinary action if needed.

Tom Serwatka, UNF Vice President and Chief of Staff, said the detailed enforcement policy is currently being drafted as a separate document.

Serwatka said he believes UNF is following the trend set by other universities.

The University of Florida was Florida’s first state university to ban tobacco, in 2010.

Much like UNF’s proposal, UF’s enforcement policy is centered around accountability among members of the community, which means students are expected to inform offenders of the rules.

Erin Jester, former editor in chief of the Independent Florida Alligator, worked for the paper when UF initially changed its policy.

“Most people still smoke on campus,” Jester said.

Serwatka said he believes UNF will be able to enforce the policy.

“Hopefully it will become a social taboo to smoke on campus,” Serwatka said.

Michael Harper, a UNF mathematics junior, said he will keep smoking unless there are clear consequences for offenders.

Harper also said he feels ostracized by the proposal.

“If we’re going to pride ourselves on being a campus that allows different races, ethnicities, viewpoints, and choices, then why try pointing out one person over the other?” Harper said.

Serwatka said the university is targeting smoking because of the secondhand smoke non-smokers have to deal with.

Michael Kingsley, a UNF mathematics and biology junior, said he does not smoke, but he doesn’t mind if others do.

“I can see the possible health risks, but we’re a campus that’s open to every kind of group,” Kingsley said.

Serwatka said he understands the need to promote healthy lifestyles while still allowing people to make their own choices.

He said the policy has been an issue where it concerns smokeless tobacco because it does not impinge on anyone else’s health.

“If it’s not affecting all of us, do we really have a right to go in and tell someone they can’t?” Serwatka said.

Serwatka said the proposal is not final, and administrators are looking for effective arguments for and against the policy from students. He said he wants students to email him their thoughts on the proposal.

The university is planning a public hearing for people to voice their opinions on the matter. Administrators are still deciding on a date for the hearing.

Cody Pierson, a UNF coastal biology junior, said he smokes and is not in favor of the policy.

Pierson said there are essentially informally designated smoking areas in front of the Library, the Peace Plaza, and outside the Social Sciences Building.

“Those are pretty much the only places you’ll see people smoking in a big quantity,” Pierson said.

The current policy requires smokers to stand at least 25 feet from buildings.

Serwatka said most people don’t follow those rules. He also said designated smoking areas are unlikely to be approved because the university is trying to eliminate secondhand smoke.

He also said the university will begin offering cessation programs for students who want to quit using tobacco.

Until the proposal is finalized, the UNF community has the potential to sway the decision one way or the other. After that, they might have to go cold turkey on campus.

Email Gordon Rhyne at news@unfspinnaker.com

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