OPINION: Let’s Breathe Fresher

Chantel Folks

Secondhand smoke kills 41,000 nonsmokers a year in the U.S.

Just think about this chilling statistic, and then think about how many times you’ve been sitting outside of the library with someone smoking right next to you, walked through smoke clouds as you pass people smoking on your way to the bookstore, or tried to enjoy a meal at the tables outside of the student union ignoring the person vaping next to you. Did you know that in 2015 the University of North Florida initiated a smoke free policy called the Breath Fresh Initiative?     

Having a smoke-free or tobacco-free policy protects students, faculty, and staff from involuntary exposure to secondhand smoke and gives those who are trying to quit a safe space to do so, a space that is free from tobacco products and temptation. A smoke-free policy limits or eliminates the use of smoke-producing tobacco, while a tobacco free policy limits or eliminates the use of any tobacco product like cigarettes, e-cigs, Juuls, etc.

The primary concern of a smoke-free policy, like the Breathe Fresh Initiative, is eliminating exposure to secondhand smoke. Being a smoke-free campus means that the act of smoking on UNF properties, including recreational facilities, residential buildings, and parking lots and garages, is prohibited.

Smoke-free policies benefit not only the students and faculty, but the campus as a whole. For instance, these policies can increase enrollment because studies show that many students are nonsmokers and would therefore prefer to attend a smoke-free college, creating a marketing and recruiting advantage.

They can also have a significant economic impact. Studies have shown that cigarette litter can cost a university up to $150,000 each year when costs associated with collection tools, personnel and maintenance cost, cigarette receptacles, lost production costs, and tuition implication due to student absenteeism are calculated. Smokefree and tobacco free policies can even have a positive effect on the campus environment since prohibited smoking means less cigarette butts littering the campus, and making the campus look prettier as an added bonus.

While being among the growing number of colleges to adopt a smoke-free/tobacco-free policy is great, there are things that can be improved. For instance, the fact that the Breathe Fresh policy focuses on voluntary compliance means that there’s no consequences if you’re caught smoking, reinforcing an idea that I can smoke wherever and whenever I want since nothing will happen to me if I get caught- there are no signs, flyers, notices, etc. stating that UNF is a smoke-free campus.

How would new students or staff members be aware of the fact that we are a designated smoke-free campus? Also, being a smokefree policy instead of a tobacco free policy contributes to the idea that certain tobacco products, like e-cigs, are safer than cigarettes, although studies have shown the exact opposite to be true. Any sort of tobacco product is dangerous, and secondhand smoke from things like e-cigs, cigars, or hookah can contain just as many carcinogenic agents in them as a cigarette.

Tobacco products like Juuls (a brand of e-cigarette) for instance, contain as much nicotine as a pack of 20 regular cigarettes! Nicotine is an addictive substance that can harm parts of the brain that control attention, learning, mood and impulse control.

So, what can we do? As a part of the Osprey Community we all have a role in reminding people, in a friendly and respectful way, of the Breathe Fresh Initiative. If we raise enough awareness and support for this policy, we will be able to convince the Department of Health Promotion to incorporate stricter resources to enforce and promote this policy on campus. We might even convince them adopt a tobacco free policy to make UNF a 100 percent tobacco free campus to further promote the overall health of our institution. Every nonsmoker has the universal right to breathe clean air. Let’s support our school as we take steps to commit to becoming tobacco free!

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