Commentary Life + Arts

Smoke-free campus, who?

| Fiona Legesse/The Cougar

As we all know, the University of Houston is a “smoke-free campus.” The Tobacco-Free Campus Policy was implemented back in 2013 to reduce health risks among students, faculty, staff and visitors to the University.

Through this policy, the campus restricts the use, sale and advertising of all tobacco products including cigarettes, chewing tobacco and electronic cigarettes.

“Any member of the UH community may inform the tobacco user of the policy and request that he/she comply. Individuals who are reported to the Tobacco Task Force for non-compliance will receive a message reminding them of the policy, and the availability of tobacco cessation services. There are no plans at this time to issue citations or fines, or to report anyone to his or her supervisor,” according to the University’s Tobacco-Free Campus Policy.

This shows the University community is expected to comply with these wishes. But are wishes enough?

People continue to smoke on campus and will continue to whether the policy is there or not. The implementation of a policy is a great effort, but without consequences, I can assure you there will be no change.

“Banning smoking completely hasn’t made smoking go away. It’s just made smokers criminals. People smoke on campus everyday, but they’re breaking the rules in doing so. Smoking sections need to be brought back,” said political science junior Matt Jones.

For the students, staff, faculty and visitors that are smokers, this policy is very inconvenient. There is only one designated smoking area, located at the Isabel C. Cameron Building. If you are familiar with that location, you know it is remote and not easily accessible to most on campus.

From the University’s point of view, this policy is ensuring a safe, healthy environment for students, staff and faculty. It can be inferred that if these policies were enforced, the rates of smoking among students would decrease overall.

Cigarette use among college students fell from 16 percent in 2010 to an all-time low of 9 percent in 2016, and the daily smoking rate fell from 7.6 percent to 3 percent during that same time, according to a study by Truth Initiative, a Tobacco-Free college program. 

In addition to the decrease in smoking rates, a smoke-free campus can help eliminate litter. Cigarettes are the most littered item on earth. Worldwide, about 4.5 trillion cigarettes are littered each year, according to Truth Initiative. So yes, cigarette butts are a source of litter, but what about electronic cigarettes?

UH’s policy also bans the use of E-Cigs such as vapes, Juuls and other smoking devices. My question is, why are these also banned? If they are not contributing to litter, then how are they directly affecting campus?

Everyone has a different opinion when it comes to smoking, whether it’s a cigarette or any other form of tobacco product. There are students, staff and faculty who are smokers, so why should they be told their choices are not going to be accommodated?

As the University accommodates those who do not agree with smoking, they should also accommodate those who do. It is a personal choice to smoke, and people should be able to exercise that right, just like people who choose not to.

While the University has valid reasons for the policy, if they are not going to enforce it, then it is not effective.

Either enforce it, or accommodate it.

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