Smoke-free campus produces mixed reactions

Posted on Feb 8 2013 - 7:00am by Lacey Russell
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Six citations have been written since the smoke-free policy on campus took effect on Jan. 1, and members of the Ole Miss community are adjusting to the change.

File Photo (Quentin Winstine) Students smoking on campus before the smoke free campus rule took affect

File Photo (Quentin Winstine)
Students smoking on campus before the smoke free campus rule took affect

Smoke-Free Campus Environment, a policy introduced to Ole Miss in August, officially took effect on Jan. 1.

The University Police Department (UPD) has been strictly enforcing the policy, ticketing any faculty, staff or students caught smoking on campus. There are limits to the policy, though.
“We actually have to see that person smoking before we issue a citation,” said Michael Harmon, UPD captain of field operations.
Since the policy went into effect a little over a month ago, UPD has only written six citations for smoking, according to Harmon and Assistant Police Chief Ray Hawkins.

Students received four of the citations, while faculty and staff members received the other two.
“The officer who wrote the ticket said that (the offenders) were mostly compliant,” Harmon said.

“They just don’t like the fact that they can’t smoke on campus.”
Hawkins said UPD is hoping for voluntary compliance.
“If they do that, then it’ll be smooth for everybody,” he said.
The money accrued from the smoking citations will be used to provide assistance to any student, faculty or staff member who wishes to quit smoking, according to Leslie Banahan, assistant vice chancellor for student affairs.

People who want to quit smoking can go to the Student Health Center to receive three months of support to quit smoking from the funds generated by the smoke-free policy.
Two other goals of the policy were to improve clean air and reduce litter.
“We certainly haven’t eliminated it, but we’ve improved it,” Banahan said.

“I’m pleased with how it’s going.”
While Banahan said that many people have reacted positively toward the new smoke-free campus, there have been mixed feelings about the policy.
“I completely understand having designated smoking areas, but having a completely smoke-free campus is ridiculous,” accountancy junior Cameron Sweetwood said.

“If you’re outside, I don’t see who it’s hurting other than the smoker. I mean, it’s not the end of the world, but it would make my day a lot better if I could enjoy a cigarette between classes when I don’t have time to leave campus.”
Criminal justice junior Conrad Helms has a similar sentiment.
“Smoking on a campus as beautiful as ours is not necessarily an agreeable subject, yet it is one that must fundamentally be acceptable on a public university’s campus,” Helms said.

“It is a freedom of choice guaranteed to all citizens, and, as a public university, we cannot expect to be held to a standard that denies some students their rights just because some people think it’s dirty. What a trivial endeavor.”
Banahan said the university has given no consideration to making amendments to the policy.

If considerations were to be given, the process would start with the Implementation Committee, a group with a broad representation of faculty, staff and students.
Citations for smoking on campus carry a fine of $25.

Among the six citations, tickets have been issued at residence halls and academic buildings.
For a complete breakdown of the smoke-free policy at Ole Miss, click here.