Smoking ban forum held on campus

Gordon Rhyne

Photo courtesy of Wiki Commons
Photo courtesy of Wiki Commons

On the first day back from spring break, March 25, UNF held an open forum for students, faculty, and staff to voice their opinions on the recently proposed campus tobacco ban. One student was in attendance.

Stephanie Howell, Coordinator of Research Services, said an email about the forum was sent out to all members of the UNF community March 18.

A check of UNF students’ emails indicated students didn’t receive an email about the forum until March 25 at 11 a.m. — the same time the event started.

Tully Burnett, associate director of Auxiliary Services, said students should have been given proper notice about the forum.

Everett Malcolm, associate vice president for Student Affairs, said UNF will be holding another forum to allow more students to be heard.

However, the few people in attendance still engaged in an impassioned discussion.

The university conducted a survey of UNF students, faculty and staff in fall 2011. The survey had 4,666 respondents, 67.5 percent of whom said they support the idea of a tobacco-free campus.

Of the respondents, 26.4 percent said they use tobacco either daily, weekly, monthly, or a few times per year.

Burnett said he thinks the proposal will alienate 26 percent of the UNF population.

“You’re going to alienate me. I can tell you that,” Burnett said.

Eric Armetta, a UNF political science junior, was the only student in attendance.

Armetta said he does not smoke but he attended the forum because he believes others should have the right to smoke on campus.

“It’s about controlling lives,” Armetta said.

James Taylor, the Environmental Center coordinator, said the proposal isn’t preventing people from ever smoking, just from smoking on campus.

Shelly Purser, director of Health Promotions, said she understands the difficulty in promoting moderation, while still letting students make their own choices.

“We don’t want to be looked upon as the wellness enforcement freaks,” Purser said.

Armetta said the university is inconsistent with its health policies, citing liquor sales at the Boathouse.

“Alcohol is very unhealthy for humans, so did you oppose that like you opposed cigarettes?” Armetta said.

Purser said Healthy Osprey was specifically asked to draft a university-wide tobacco policy. She said it’s not their place to oppose or support individual situations on campus.

The administration’s general attitude focused on using the information they gathered to justify the tobacco ban. According to the survey, 90.8 percent of people said they acknowledge the dangers of secondhand smoke.

Taylor said smokers don’t follow the current policies, which permits smoking 25 feet away from buildings. He said this leads him to believe they wouldn’t even follow a policy with designated smoking areas.

Burnett said he would be more than happy to smoke in a designated area away from populated areas.

Administrators said they will gather feedback from all future forums and compare it with the data gathered in the survey. They said a decision will be made once all the information has been considered.

Email Gordon Rhyne at [email protected]