Smokers have had their run of campus for a long while, but as of summer, their in-between class lights have been extinguished — and they are not happy about it.
“I think it’s a little extreme since most smokers already keep a respectful distance from non-smokers,” said physics and chemistry freshman Zachary Bone, a smoker.
The updated policy is the cause of much controversy across campus, particularly since it was approved during the summer without much representation from the student body.
“The fact that something like this is being passed — and during the summer while no one is here — is flabbergasting,” said Student Government Association Sen. Eduardo Reyes.
“Students have the right to smoke. I actually think it is an infringement on students’ rights to limit their choices and decisions after they get out of class.”
On July 7, SGA officials authored “A Resolution on an Updated Tobacco Policy” as an expression of their absolute opinion and disapproval of the updated policy.
According to the resolution, the SGA seeks to protect non-smokers from the health hazards of unwanted secondhand smoke but supports students’ rights to smoke. The SGA Senate does not advocate a campus-wide ban.
“In the foreseeable future, I don’t see the student body and the student government ever agreeing to this bill or policy,” Reyes said.
However, UH Health Initiatives and the campus Tobacco Task Force say the new policy is not only required in order to receive grant funding from Cancer Prevention Research Institute of Texas for the University’s cancer research program, but necessary for the health of non-smoking students.
“UH’s tobacco-free policy is a positive and health-directed initiative,” said Kathryn Peek, assistant vice president for UH Health Initiatives and co-chair of the Tobacco Task Force.
“It is part of UH’s commitment to providing a healthy and sustainable environment for everyone in the UH community.”
With the lack of legitimate information sent to students about the new policy, though, it seems students will continue smoking in undesignated or smoking-prohibited areas and remain unaffected by the bill.
“Students are heavily inconvenienced by this bill,” Reyes said. “But I think it will be very difficult to enforce majorly because students haven’t even been informed.”
The SGA’s resolution suggests the tobacco policy — instead of prohibiting smoking — should designate specific smoking areas on-campus to accommodate smokers in inclement weather, properly relocate all cigarette receptacles at least 25 feet away from building entrances and erect “Tobacco-free Zone” signs near CPRIT-funded buildings, access ways and parking lots.
Under these guidelines, the resolution says, students would be saved from right infringement as well as protect from health risks.
The resolution also calls on new student orientation programs to inform incoming freshman of the on-campus tobacco policy, encourage students to utilize specifically designated smoking areas and notify them of the free, University-provided cessation services for tobacco users.
Despite the implementation of the new smoking policy, the University has barely succeeded in informing its students or developing an understanding with on-campus smokers.
“I think we need more communication,” said economics sophomore Tao Tao, a smoker. “Smokers and the school have to be on the same page.”