Butt Out!

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The SUNY-wide ban on tobacco by 2014 is leaving many questions still yet to be answered.

However, thus far the Oswego student response seems to be apprehensive.

The war against tobacco on SUNY campuses began in 2007 when smoking was prohibited within 20 feet of all academic and residential campus buildings. Now, SUNY board members are gearing up to defeat the enemy.

SUNY Oswego Associate Vice President and Dean of Students James Scharfenberger said, “This spring semester we plan to re-emphasize the current policy and start a campaign to encourage and support smoking cessation for campus members.”

The details of the new rule have not yet been hammered out, but since SUNY Board of Trustees announced its resolution to support a “Tobacco Free SUNY,” questions have arisen among students and staff.

“How would they enforce this? Why don’t they put this money and effort into fixing the parking? Or better yet the quality of our academics?” asked Zachary O’Neill, a SUNY Oswego student.

“No one is going to get in their car and go off campus to have a cigarette on study breaks or in between classes. And what about people that don’t have cars?” SUNY Oswego student Cassandra Donoghue asked.

Their questions go unanswered.

The parameters of the resolution that were discussed by the SUNY Board of Trustees state a ban on the use of tobacco on grounds and facilities and in vehicles owned, leased or controlled by SUNY campuses.

The tobacco-free SUNY policy would prohibit the use of tobacco anytime, anywhere, by anyone on campus or at campus-sponsored events.

Policy in line for 2014

The goal is for all 64 SUNY campuses to adopt a tobacco-free policy no later than Jan. 1, 2014. This would make SUNY the largest public university system to implement a tobacco ban.

To date, SUNY Oswego does have a tobacco policy in place for its campus.

Outlined on Oswego’s Lifestyles website, the policy says, “It is our commitment to education, research and, most noticeably, our sense of global responsibility that we as a community address the significant health risk to everyone, by supporting a safe and healthy environment through the establishment of a tobacco-free policy for our institution.”

Though a tobacco-free policy is not readily enforced on SUNY Oswego’s campus, the upcoming ban has kicked Oswego into gear.

“A campus committee is currently examining whether to recommend that the campus go further in the future including prohibiting smoking and other tobacco uses on campus,” Scharfenberger said.

This committee has been titled the Clean Air Committee. Members of the group have toyed with ideas to assist student in the transition into a non-smoking campus. One idea that has been brought up repeatedly is smoking sections on campus where smokers may be permitted to light up.

But even with ideas to aid the conversion, with change comes resistance.

Are rights being violated?

Reactions to the announcement of the Tobacco Free SUNY resolution are skeptical at best. Students feel their rights will be denied by the implementation of the new rule. Even non-smokers are piping up about the fairness of a complete ban.

“This is coming from a non-smoker that actually is really grossed out by smoke and against it. I think that there should be regulations where people could smoke. We pay thousands of dollars to come here,” said Gina Ghianni, SUNY Oswego student. “Smokers should be allowed to have a cigarette in between classes and doing work. Teachers too. Also, what about people who live on campus? They pay $20,000 and they can’t even smoke a cigarette where they live. I just think it’s really unfair for all the smokers.”

More than one student is concerned about where the money is going. Many feel that the cost of tuition and other expenses to attend SUNY Oswego could be better spent.

“We pay to go there. It’s ridiculous that people can’t have a cigarette outside, plus faculty who now can’t have a cigarette on their breaks. I feel like they waste time and money on pointless projects instead of other more important issues like parking or snow removal or protecting students on campus,” said student Ericka Pratt.

But before a revolt comes to fruition, those affected by the ban should think about its possibility for success. A method of enforcement, as well as an organization to execute the enforcement, has not yet been established at SUNY Oswego.

Alternatives proposed

Alumna Lauren Leichman also brings up a good point.

“Banning it is a huge inconvenience. But on the other hand, it isn’t fair that non-smokers and young children are exposed to it. It’s also unrealistic. They should designate smoking areas throughout campus,” Leichman said.

If the smoking ban is an inconvenience to students, it must also be an inconvenience for the campus faculty and staff who must enforce it.

Therefore, how will it succeed?

Campus officials are turning toward an alternative route to establishing a smoke-free campus by helping students quit smoking now, before they have to enforce it in 2014.

“In general this policy would be meant to be a positive for the campus so we’re doing everything in our power to help students, faculty, and staff prepare for it in a positive way,” said Ted Winkworth, alcohol and other drug program coordinator at SUNY Oswego. “We believe that preparing everyone a year ahead of time and starting a conversation about it now will help people forge an opinion about it and generate some feedback that will help the Clean Air Committee in its decision making.”

Statistics on the health risks of tobacco for smokers, as well as non-smokers who breathe in second-hand smoke, need not be repeated here. The amount of illnesses and deaths caused by tobacco prove that this ban is intended to encourage a healthy campus environment.

But will its good intent be taken at face value?

Or will those affected take it as an attack on their freedom? These critical questions are yet to be answered.

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