Smoking policy’s effect hazy

Chalice Keith/The News
Since the official beginning of the tobacco policy implementation began in August, no one has faced penalties for breaking the policy which relies on bystanders to speak up.Chalice Keith/The News Since the official beginning of the tobacco policy implementation began in August, no one has faced penalties for breaking the policy which relies on bystanders to speak up.

New tobacco free regulation seems to reduce, but not eliminate, smoking on campus

Story by Alicia Steele, Staff writer, and Mikayla Marshall, Staff writer

Chalice Keith/The News Since the official beginning of the tobacco policy implementation began in August, no one has faced penalties for breaking the policy which relies on bystanders to speak up.

Chalice Keith/The News
Since the official beginning of the tobacco policy implementation began in August, no one has faced penalties for breaking the policy which relies on bystanders to speak up.

Through the first two months of Murray State’s tobacco free policy, some students say they have noticed less smoke but parts of campus remain littered with evidence that people still are lighting up on the grounds.

And because enforcement is voluntary and is up to bystanders to speak up, no one has faced penalties for breaking the policy.

“It’s not a hit somebody where they are, it’s a more positive aspect that we’re trying to have a healthy and safe environment for everyone involved,” said Renee Fister, senior presidential adviser for strategic initiatives.

The rule is aimed at improving “the health and safety” of people on campus by discouraging anyone from using tobacco, as opposed to doling out punishment, Fister said.

“To my knowledge, no action has been taken in regard to the compliance aspect of the campus tobacco policy,” she said.

Fister served as President Bob Davies’ point person while working with the Board of Regents to craft the tobacco free policy last fall and this spring.

   In February, the board approved the new policy, which bans the use on campus of “any substance containing tobacco leaf, including but not limited to, cigarettes, cigars, pipe tobacco, hookah, snuff, chew tobacco, bidis, blunts, clove cigarettes or any other preparation of tobacco.”

Starting in February, the policy immediately prevented tobacco use within 25 feet of university buildings and then spread across all campus grounds effective Aug. 5.

The policy applies to faculty, staff, students and visitors.

ENFORCING THE RULE

But two months after the policy took hold, cigarette butts still can be found throughout campus. For instance, on Wednesday the mulch outside of the Business Building North entrance facing the quad was littered with nearly two dozen butts, including five around a small blue sign that says, “Please refrain from personal tobacco use.”

Some students, such as Bryanna Kampwerth, freshman from Highland, Illinois, said they still notice other students lighting up while walking to class and outside classroom buildings.

“I don’t think it’s a huge problem, but it’s definitely an issue,” Kampwerth said. “I saw three different people smoking today.”

Fister said the administration is aware tobacco use still occurs on the grounds.

“I do think there are a few pockets of places where people are going,” she said.

In one case, many international students were continuing to use tobacco products, so Fister said the administration worked with the international department to designate a spot near Woods Hall, where the international programs are based.

“If people are just willing to communicate and work through that, it’s good,” she said.

Enforcing the policy elsewhere on campus has been trickier.

Fister said that if any representative of Murray State sees someone using tobacco on campus, the person should first explain the tobacco policy and ask the tobacco user to comply.

If someone is found violating the policy a second time, that representative can report faculty or staff to the supervisor of the building or to Human Resources, and report students to the supervisor of the building or Student Affairs, Fister said. The next step would be for the building supervisor or human resources to go through the MSU Student Life Policies, Rules and Procedures; MSU Personnel Policies and Procedures Manual; or other regulations and policies.

“If you violate a policy in the student code of conduct there are certain steps that are included there for help or encouragement to quit doing what you’re doing,” Fister said.

Fister said Racer Patrol is not involved in enforcing this policy.

IS IT WORKING?

Overall, though, Fister said she couldn’t comment about whether the Board of Regents believes the policy is working, or whether the rate of tobacco use on campus has dropped.

Some students said the policy has cleaned the air.

Oksana Reeves, sophomore from Trenton, Michigan, said she has noticed fewer smokers compared to her freshman year.

“On my way to class, I would always get behind someone smoking,” she said. “It’s important they enforce the policy so the campus continues to be clean.”

Tyler Covington, freshman from Murray who attended Racer Academy last year, said he also has seen the tobacco free policy working.

“Last year I’d walk out of Faculty Hall and there would be a cloud of smoke surrounding the building,” he said. “The policy is absolutely necessary.”

Earlier this week, Marilyn Harris, lecturer in the English department, stood under a tree on the median of Olive Street near the campus gate to smoke two cigarettes between classes.

“I don’t smoke that much during the day anyway,” Harris said.

Harris said she believes the university is following a trend, which is to encourage people to stop smoking.

But not all students believe the policy was needed. Haley Purvis, freshman from Versailles, Kentucky, said she doesn’t care whether Murray State has a tobacco free policy.

“This is the point in time where we can be adults and make our decisions,” she said. “And with this policy it’s like you’re a kid again, and they’re telling you what you can’t do.”