Students blow off designated smoking areas
Since June 2013, UH has called itself a tobacco-free campus. Designated areas are still labeled around the campus, and all is supposedly well.
Despite the official rules, smoking seems to still be an issue all around campus. People can still be found smoking outside the designated areas, in front of buildings like the M.D. Anderson Library.
One may wonder why students are still smoking everywhere on campus. The answer is that the policy is effectively pointless.
A quick look at the UH website’s policies shows the old news from 2013. The contact section shows information on the 2012-2013 Tobacco Task Force that has not been updated since.
The University has not implemented a decent method of enforcing the “rule.”
According to the FAQ section of the smoking policy, those smoking outside of designated areas on campus are subject to a stern, yet caring, email. Students are also encouraged to inform violators of the smoking policy and ask them to stop.
With a policy so easy to ignore, there is little reason to follow the rule. Smokers on busy sidewalks may be an annoyance, but there is practically nothing that can be done about it.
Integrated communications senior Carolina Fernandez said she believes that the policy is a good one, but needs to be enforced and followed. Fernandez said she supports the smoking areas and thinks students should be able to walk around campus and feel comfortable.
“When it’s outside the designated areas it makes me uncomfortable. It’s not only the smell, but it’s also hazardous to health. Personally, I would be okay if they banned smoking completely,” Fernandez said. “But I do want it to be fair for everyone. If you’re going to smoke, respect the rules and those who don’t smoke.”
Currently, there are many around the University that do not respect their fellow classmates and faculty. Those who try not to smoke outside designated areas or on campus at all are even worse off; they aren’t able to avoid the second-hand smoke from violators in front of buildings or on busy sidewalks.
While the blame for such behavior lies on the smoking violators, whether they are ignorant of the rules or simply inconsiderate, the University’s current choice of enforcement also plays a part in the frequency of the violations.
If a rule is to have any kind of effectiveness on the inconsiderate violators, there needs to be some method of enforcement. If the University puts the same amount of effort into enforcing smoking policy than it does into parking violations, some of us would be likely to receive tickets for inhaling second-hand smoke.
It’s not fair for the University to advertise itself as a smoke-free campus when so little has been done to actually make that title credible. While smokers may have the right to do what they wish with their own health, smoking needs to be done in a way that does not inconvenience and negatively affect others around them.
According to a study by the Harvard School of Public Health, one-third of college students have used a tobacco product in the past four weeks. College students tend to try things concerning tobacco products, despite the warnings and potential health consequences.
Completely banning tobacco on a campus, like the University of Texas, will not change the nature of the student.
Simply putting signs up is not enough. Suggestions, words and pleading will only go so far. Fines and enforcement are necessary for the rights of the smoker and non-smoker alike to be respected and for the boundaries of the designated areas to have any meaning at all.
Although the death penalty is not appropriate for violators, perhaps students ought to begin carrying water guns on their hips in order to exact an equally annoying — yet less harmful to the health — vengeance.
In all seriousness, there needs to be change. Writing down a rule on a sheet of paper and declaring it to the world means nothing in and of itself.
If nothing happens when the rule is broken, the rule may as well not exist at all.
Opinion columnist Shane Brandt is a petroleum engineering senior and may be reached at [email protected]