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University evaluating smoke-free campus

October 23, 2008

As more states and businesses are becoming smoke-free, UW-River Falls Student Health Services is looking into whether or not the campus should also go smoke-free for health reasons.

Currently, UWRF holds a 25-foot policy. There are posters in buildings on campus displaying the phrase, “Be sweet, stand 25 feet.”

According to a spring 2008 survey conducted by Student Health services, 82.7 percent of surveyed students say they are regularly exposed to secondhand smoke on their way to classes and 48.6 percent of faculty members agree. 

Pennsylvania recently passed a law that all their state schools would be smoke-free.

“It’s starting to be a bit of a trend,” Keven Syverson, health education coordinator, said. “Secondhand smoke is dangerous.”

Another issue associated with smoking on campus is the litter generated by cigarette butts. According to cigarette litter.org, cigarettes can take years to decompose and are harmful to wildlife.

Of the surveyed students, 88.2 percent and 92 percent of surveyed faculty said they agreed with the statement, “Litter caused by smoking detracts from the appearance of this campus.” 

“We’re a campus that wants to go greener,” Syverson said.

The debate is whether or not this would affect students and faculty negatively.

“As much as I don’t like smoking, it wouldn’t be fair to the students who do smoke. I wish they would clean up their butts more, but it’s just a fact of life with that around,” student Dominic Ostberg said.

Another interviewed student not only said she felt it was unfair to the students who smoke, but also that it was an act of discrimination.

“It would be terrible if our campus was smoke-free. It’s taking away student’s rights,” student Angel Brelie said.

Syverson said he disagrees that the move would be an act of discrimination.

“Nothing in the Constitution makes it a right to smoke or not smoke. It’s not a rights issue,” Syverson said.

Going smoke-free would also prevent students from starting to smoke or to keep smoking, Syverson said. 

Student Health Services considers anyone who has had a cigarette in the past 30 days a smoker.

“It wouldn’t bother me, I don’t smoke. The 25 feet rule is pretty good, though,” student Reese Lutgen said.

Data from the survey that was sent to 2,000 students and 900 faculty members showed that more than half of surveyed students would favor a smoke-free campus. Of those surveyed, only 382 students responded and 138 faculty members responded. Data from the survey shows that 66 percent of surveyed students and 70.3 percent of surveyed faculty would favor a smoke-free campus. 

The idea of UWRF becoming a smoke-free campus is not yet set in stone. Student Health Services plans to propose the idea to the Health and Wellness Committee and the UWRF Administration. 

“It is a process that will take planning,” Syverson said.

Student Health Services wants to make sure this is what students and faculty want before making it official, Syverson said.

“It’s not meant to be a judgment,” Syverson said. “It’s an addiction. It’s a public health issue. When we know the science behind something, we have an obligation to do something about it.”