Smoking ban difficult to enforce on campus

Posted on Feb 17 2016 - 10:54am by Hannah Rinehart  and Mckenna Wierman


Since the University adopted a campus-wide smoking ban in 2013, the University Police Department has issued fewer than 200 citations.

The policy bans smoking for students, faculty, staff and contractors on all grounds owned by the University.


Photo by: Cameron Brooks

University Police Department Chief Tim Potts said after the policy was originally passed, there was a learning period on the campus, but that time is long gone now.

Giving out citations for smoking on campus, however, is harder than it seems, Potts said. Since Aug. 1, 2015, the UPD has only issued 73 citations. Since the University originally enacted the policy in 2013, the UPD has given a total of 179 citations. The fine for violating the smoking ban is $25.

“It’s a policy that’s tough to enforce,” Potts said. “We typically try to stick to warnings at first.”

Although Potts has only been working with the UPD since June 2015, he is no stranger to enforcing smoking restrictions.

“I came from a University with a no-smoking policy,” Potts said. “I know how important the policy is, and I am very comfortable with trying to enforce it.”

Potts said football game days are particularly high-traffic days for smoking on campus in the fall semester. Potts said he assigns several UPD officers to patrol the Grove on game days, but they usually only issue warnings.

Graphic by: Clara Turnage

Graphic by: Clara Turnage

“We’ll just go through the Grove telling people to put their cigarettes and cigars out, and, if they listen to us, we usually do not have any problems,” Potts said. “Your attitude goes a long way in determining what is going to happen.”

Potts said enforcing the smoke-free policy depends on everyone. If a student sees someone smoking on campus, but does not want to get personally involved, all the student has to do is call in and tell UPD, and they will take care of it. This includes tips about areas where students try to secretly smoke on campus.

Potts said he feels that the University made a smart move when deciding to become a smoke-free campus. A lack of secondhand smoke on campus makes for a much healthier environment for all students and faculty.

“What people choose to do with their time at their homes is their business,” Potts said, “but Ole Miss is a smoke-free environment.”

When the University adopted its smoking ban, cigarette disposals were removed from campus. Landscape Services Supervisor Tom Dickerson said the University’s landscaping services tried for a long time to keep up with the cigarette waste around campus, but the task eventually became too great.

“We had fought it for a long time,” Dickerson said. “Finally, we just came to a point where we couldn’t fight it any more. It’s not as bad now. If we come across them, we’ll clean them up.”

In summer 2012, the University conducted a study of its litter, and cigarette remains comprised 29 percent of the survey on campus, more than any other type of litter. The same study indicated 95 percent of cigarette filters are made of cellulose acetate, a slow-degrading form of plastic that can be environmentally problematic.

“The reality if enforcement can only go so far,” said Shannon Richardson, assistant director for the Department of Campus Recreation and co-chair for the Smoke-Free Campus Policy Implementation Committee. “We only have so many officers on foot and obviously, whatever the bigger problems are at that time are going to take precedence over a smoking violation.”

If any student or faculty member wants to quit smoking, Ole Miss offers a smoking cessation program located in the pharmacy in the Student Health Center.