Students, faculty and staff alike have recently found the University of Mississippi community divided by debate concerning the university-wide smoking ban enacted this past summer. Shannon Richardson, assistant director of campus recreation and co-chair of the Smoke-Free Policy Implementation Committee, said a resolution was passed last year for a smoke-free campus by the Associated Student Body. “This committee was formed after the ASB voted to pass a referendum to create a new policy that would prevent smoking on campus,” Richardson said. “The intentions of this policy are first and foremost to protect people on our campus from breathing secondhand smoke,” she said.
Smokeless tobacco is not banned by the policy, as the only harm posed by such substances are to the user. Tickets will not be distributed until Jan. 1, 2013, and $25 will be fined for the first offense. University of Mississippi Police Chief Calvin Sellers said that UPD officers have distributed warnings to individuals smoking on campus. “We have passed out a couple of boxes’ worth of warning cards,” he said. No records are retained in regard to warnings. “Once people know they can get a ticket, and it starts costing them money, it may be a little different,” he said. “We have too much of a warning time, and people are not paying much attention to it.” Both Sellers and Richardson point to the failures of the past policy in illustrating the necessity for the outright ban. “The former designated smoking areas policy failed to protect the campus from secondhand smoke, even being in effect for three years,” Richardson said. “Subsequently, the Smoke-Free Campus Policy Implementation Committee was created and charged with implementing the smoke-free campus policy.” Sellers said that the enforcement of smoking zones was difficult. “People did not know where the smoking areas were,” he said. “Now, if people are smoking at all, there is no question that they are in violation.” The problem of smoking on campus was not “just students,” according to Richardson. “There are faculty, staff and students (and visitors) that did not adhere to the designated smoking areas,” Richardson said. “People were still having to walk through clouds of smoke while walking on campus.”