On-campus smoking ban met with mixed reception, muddled clarity
Though MSU’s move to ban smoking on campus over the summer, to be implemented at the start of 2016’s fall semester, falls in line with a gradual trend at other major universities, doubts still remain on the data used to justify the ban, as well as how it will be enforced.
On June 17, the MSU Board of Trustees decided after a short discussion to ban tobacco products and e-cigarettes on campus, effective next year.
“To ‘smoke’ means inhaling, exhaling, burning, or carrying any lighted or heated tobacco or plant product intended for inhalation, whether natural or synthetic,” the policy reads. “To ‘smoke’ also includes the use with any such tobacco or plant product of a pipe or hookah; of any electronic smoking device which creates, in any manner, an aerosol or vapor, in any form; or of any other oral smoking device.”
Chewing tobacco and other tobacco products are banned as well.
The next step for MSU administrators is figuring out how the policy will be implemented, along with educational programs throughout the next year.
“What’s going on now is the task force, all the different subcommittees are meeting as we start to look through different ways we can continue to roll out an educational campaign on all of this,” MSU spokesperson Jason Cody said.
By the start of the spring semester, those on campus will start to see the beginning phases of the policy rolled out in preparation for the final ban on Aug. 15, 2016, including an updated website with more information. MSU will also remove the cement ashtrays throughout campus, Cody said, though a cost estimate is not yet available.
Though a common misconception on campus sees the new policy being enforced by police officers, the reality is far less dramatic. MSU police, though responsible for enforcing all university ordinances, will not necessarily be aggressively enforcing it beyond informing an offending individual to put the cigarette out.
For example, MSU police Sgt. Florene McGlothian-Taylor said, people who smoke in Spartan Stadium are asked to stop, but could be kicked out if they refuse.
“This policy isn’t being implemented with enforcement being the top priority,” Cody told The State News in June. “This is more of, kind of an educational transition.”
If need be, an offending student can be referred to the Department of Student Life’s Student Conduct System for further review. Cody said he doubted whether an offending student, even one who obstinately refuses to follow the policy, could be expelled, Associate Director of Student Life for Judicial Affairs Rick Shafer said for other student policies expulsion is the final possibility.
Complaints are filed by individuals in the community, after which Student Conduct and Conflict Resolution review the case.
A student can then decide if they want to accept responsibility or not and if they do an appropriate punishment will be decided.
“That is largely on a case by case basis, with obvious consideration for severity, impact on other people, history of conduct violations, etc.,” Shafer said.
Should a student not accept responsibility, there is the option for a hearing in which the complainant has to prove the respondent is guilty of violating the policy before a third party, either a board or an administrator. A sanction is then decided if the respondent is found guilty, however they do have the right to appeal the decision.
Violators who are not students or faculty could face a fine, the amount of which has not been decided, Cody wrote in an email.
Smokers, for obvious reasons, are upset at the ban, with some raising issue at the structure of MSU’s campus. Other smoke-free schools like the University of Michigan, are more integrated into the surrounding city, making it much easier for smokers to leave campus for a smoke break.
Others see it as an image boost for the university, without any real effort to enforce it.
“They barely enforce the 25-foot policy,” philosophy senior Dilyn Corner said. “I’ve had one person talk to me in the last four years. If they didn’t want us to smoke within 25 feet of the building why would they put all the cigarette (ashtrays) right next to the doors?”
Fisheries and wildlife sophomore Natalie Spratt said she could understand the current 25-foot policy for people living on the lower floors of a residence hall so smoke wouldn’t travel into a room, however living on the second floor she hasn’t ever had an issue.
She also said she would advocate for designated smoking areas, especially for people living on campus.
“You can’t just ban it on the entire campus, people aren’t just going to not smoke,” Spratt said. “I’m going to be living in a dorm at least for spring of next year, like I’ll stop smoking around buildings, with people having classes, but I’m not going to stop smoking around my dorm because I live there and I’ve decided to smoke.”
The policy came as a result of a task force organized to look into the idea, although one major push came from an online petition from the MSU Anti-Cancer Society last fall. The group launched their petition on Change.org to ban smoking from campus.
1,609 supporters signed the petition and a self-conducted survey which found one in four students at MSU smoke, though data from MSU itself differs. The most recent National College Health Assessment, last conducted at MSU in early 2014, showed the number of smokers to be lower.
Results of the survey showed only 5.2 percent of students had smoked cigarettes six or more times in the past 30 days. A majority, 68.3 percent of respondents, said they had never smoked a cigarette and 12.3 percent of students, more than half not being regular smokers, reported smoking at least one during the past month.
“I am confident that this policy will make MSU a healthier place for our students, staff, visitors and environment,” MSU Anti-Cancer Society president Tristan Worthington said in a previous interview with The State News. “As for downtown East Lansing, I am hopeful that the campus culture will emanate to the surrounding areas.”