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Public Safety enforces smoking rule without fines

September 28, 2006

After several months of debate last semester, the proposed provision to the UW-River Falls campus smoking policy has come to a halt.

The current policy states that smoking is banned from any UW-RF campus building or State vehicle, and within 25 feet of any campus building.

Last April, the Student Senate passed a motion to implement a $10 smoking fine for those who violate the campus’ 25-foot rule. After the proposal passed, no smoking fines were issued.

Senate President Joe Eggers said the proposal will probably not be brought up again.

“Regardless of whether or not fines are implemented on campus, attention was given to the issue, and hopefully our smoking policy on campus will be more widely followed,” Eggers said. “[The smoking fines] would be a nice source of revenue, but it would be really hard because Public Safety doesn’t want to enforce it and neither do RAs.”

Time seems to be the biggest obstacle for fine implementation.

“We’ve got a lot of other things happening on campus which makes it virtually impossible to fine,” said Public Safety Director Mark Kimball, adding that the University’s smoking policy says it is expected that everyone will comply with the policy.  “That is the policy on campus and we are going to go with that policy.”

Still, some students don’t think written policies are effective.

“Even if the school did enforce the 25-foot rule with a fine issued by Public Safety, this would not keep students from smoking on campus,” said Prucha Hall Manager Becky Grossman.

She said it is difficult to satisfy both smokers and residents.

“Even when smokers respect the 25-foot rule, there are still unhappy residents,” she said. “I have had residents complain this year who can smell cigarette smoke coming in their windows. The smokers were at the smoking station, which is placed in compliance with the 25-foot rule.”
The policy now followed by the University was revised in 2003 after students living in residence halls complained about the smell of cigarette smoke coming through their windows. The policy took effect in January 2004.

Kimball said it is nice to know the option is out there to enforce the policy if it is necessary.

“We would enforce [the fines] if people would be obnoxious and unwilling to comply, but most of them are willing to do so,” he said.

Chancellor Don Betz said it is important to ensure that individuals abide by the campus’ policy.

“I will be interested in how the Student Senate reviews their proposal,” Betz said.

While the issue of fines may not be discussed again in the Senate, Eggers said the time spent on the issue was appropriate.

“Smoking is an important topic, which people on both sides have strong feelings for or against,” he said.

No Wisconsin or Minnesota universities have smoking fines as part of their smoking policy. Many have a provision stating that smoking is not allowed within 25 feet of campus buildings and/or designated smoking areas as indicated by signs.

A proposal to ban smoking on all campus property failed to pass at a Senate meeting held last April.