New university smoking policy causes controversy

Smokers on campus will have to watch their cigarette butts; improper disposal of a cigarette butt equates to a $25 fine according to the newly approved smoking policy.

An Official Communications e-mail announced the approval of the new smoking policy with support from the Student Senate, the Faculty Senate, Staff Council, the Graduate Student Assembly, and the President’s Council, all of which reported input to the Healthy Campus 2010 Task Force.

The current smoking policy uses the “20 feet” rule, meaning that smoking is not allowed within 20 feet of Carnegie Mellon buildings.

The new policy will designate certain places on campus as smoking areas. Anyone caught littering — not properly disposing of a cigarette — or smoking outside of a designated smoking area will be issued a $25 fine.

Jared Itkowitz, a junior business administration and Chinese studies double major and student body president, made it clear that the goal of the policy was not to eliminate smoking on campus completely, but to “promote health awareness on campus.”

Itkowitz noted that the new smoking policy is part of the Healthy Campus 2010 initiative.

“The Healthy Campus 2010 Task Force is made up of students, faculty, and staff. It was formed in the spring of 2006,” Itkowitz said. “The goals are to improve nutrition, perhaps provide wellness facilities to manage stress and depression, and in general to improve the overall healthiness of our campus.”

Anita Barkin, director of Health Services, is part of the Healthy Campus 2010 Task Force and a proponent of the new smoking policy. She spoke about the policy at last Thursday’s Student Senate meeting, explaining, “It didn’t just appear. There was roughly a two-year process involved to get to this point.”

Healthy Campus members approached the Student Senate, the Faculty Senate, Staff Council, the Graduate Student Assembly, the President’s Council, and the Student Dormitory Council to receive feedback about smoking on campus.

“We sent out a survey and received a response of roughly 54 percent from people saying they could not support a complete ban on smoking on campus,” Barkin said.

While the margin of response opposing a complete ban on smoking was very slight, it was clear to Healthy Campus that “something was needed to satisfy both smokers and non-smokers, and a complete ban on smoking was not an option.”

After the first round of feedback, the proposal was modified. The re-written policy proposed “designated smoking areas”; however, a major concern from students and faculty was the matter of enforcement.

With the new policy in place, Carnegie Mellon University Police will be in charge of issuing citations for violations. Students can no longer smoke as they are walking to class.

Tony Paletta, a junior creative writing major, is not in favor of the new policy.

“It sucks. I’m not blowing smoke on people or in their faces,” Paletta said. “I’m a human being and sometimes I’ll be late for class, so I’m gonna smoke as I’m walking to class. I’m not gonna come to class early to smoke.”

Barkin spoke on the locations of the designated areas.

“The locations will be determined by a committee led by Madelyn Miller from Environmental Health and Safety. The committee will be comprised of staff, faculty, and students [and] it will include smokers,” Barkin said.

Barkin remarked in the Senate meeting that the smoking areas “will not be on the Cut, the mall, near academic or athletic buildings, nor the children’s facilities.”

Efforts to “go smoke-free” on college campuses are becoming a popular trend; as of this year there are over 160 completely smoke-free colleges in the United States, and over 14 Pennsylvania campuses are smoke-free. The policy recently passed, Barkin said, “is a satisfactory solution for now.”

Janie Boardman, a Carnegie Mellon off-site employee and former smoker of 44 years, said she quit smoking 17 years ago, but remembers a time when doctors were smoking in their offices.

“It was just part of the culture to smoke; everybody smoked. Smoking never gave me cancer. I am [in my late 80s] and just as healthy as can be. Yes, I quit, but you really have to want to quit,” Boardman said.

For students looking to stop smoking, Health Services will initiate a program to provide students, faculty, and their spouses with options to help them stop smoking.

The program is free of charge and will offer prescription medications to help anyone who wants to join the program. A Student Senate member brought up the possibilities of students gaining weight, which may negatively affect their health.

Barkin responded that Student Health Services will cover the additional $90 cost of a weight management course available in the program.

Without the privilege to smoke wherever they want, smokers might find the option of quitting rather appealing.

Barkin notes that “studies indicate approximately 70 percent of college smokers want to quit and about 82 percent have tried to quit.

Changing social norms through policy and restricting the number of places one can smoke provides a more supportive environment for students who want to kick the habit.”

On Jan. 1, 2009, the new smoking policy will go into effect.

There will be a leniency period until April 1, after which University Police will begin enforcing the policy and issuing citations.