Tobacco Free Campus Initiative: What do the students really want?

Administration hesitates to enact a new policy before all students, faculty and staff are considered

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Earlier in September The Bates Student reported on the new Tobacco Free Campus Initiative spearheaded by sophomore Reed Mszar and the Public Health Initiative, as well as ‘Cats Against Cancer. The current Bates policy has not changed since 2004, making Bates and Bowdoin the only two colleges, out of 21 in Maine, that are not smoke-free.

To reiterate the policy:

“Smoking, the burning of any type of pipe, cigar, cigarette, or similar product, and chewing tobacco is prohibited in all campus buildings, including residence halls, as well as in all vehicles owned, leased or rented by the College. Smoking is prohibited within 50 feet, approximately 20 paces, of all campus buildings, including residence halls.”

Bates, who pioneers itself as a progressive institution, is behind, but not because of Administrative opposition to a new policy. After discussing the initiative with Dean McIntosh, Athletic Director Kevin McHugh and other members of the administration, Mszar found that a new policy garnered unanimous backing. “It was clear that the Administration would fully support this Tobacco-free Initiative, so long as this was something that the student body, as a whole, truly wanted” Mszar said.

As a result, the Public Health Initiative conducted a survey not only found on the Bates Today, but also on the napkin dispensers in Commons. Mszar states that the survey is intended to gauge the opinions of all members of the Bates community in order to develop a fair path forward with a new policy regarding tobacco use on campus. The new policy is not intended to isolate the smoking population, but “since students, staff, and faculty all share the same campus, everyone’s voice matters,” Mszar said.

The results of the survey are too preliminary to draw any substantial conclusions, but Mszar believes that they will shed light on some of the concerns throughout campus. However, one point has become clear—there needs to be a much greater enforcement of the 50 foot policy. Currently, the policies enforcement is lackadaisical. Students can be seen standing outside of Commons, Ladd Library and other academic buildings smoking less than a 50 foot radius away. Faculty and Staff currently abide by the 50 foot policy. Commons workers travel across Campus Avenue to the field where tailgates are held to smoke.

Senior Jessie Jacobson does not smoke, but she has many close friends who do.

“They don’t acknowledge [the 50 foot policy]…they probably don’t know the policy exists. The fact that there is a rule respected by Commons workers is disrespectful regardless if students know or not,” Jacobson said.

Jacobson also serves as the Peer Writing Assistant to the Tobacco in History and Culture First Year Seminar. She talked about the smoking ban with her professor. To Jacobson’s surprise, her professor was not wholeheartedly for a ban.

Regardless of health concerns, the Public Health Initiative is committed to a fair response. “As this is a particularly sensitive issue,” Mszar said, “the road to becoming a tobacco-free campus should be a gradual and thoughtful one, one that incorporates different perspectives in an open and respectful dialogue.”

Copyright (C) 2016 The Bates Student