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Debate on tobacco-free campus begins

April 20, 2012

The Chancellor’s Advisory Council on alcohol, tobacco and other drugs will be hosting two open forums to discuss the possibility of making UW-River Falls a tobacco free campus.

The purpose of the forums is to gather input and generate discussion regarding a potential campus tobacco free policy, with each forum starting with a short presentation of information and data, according to Keven Syverson, health education coordinator at Student Health Services. The forums are open to students, faculty and staff.

“It is important for students and staff to share their opinions as the Chancellor wants to hear from the campus community on this issue,” Syverson said.

The new policy would help to reduce secondhand smoke and the littering of cigarette butts and spit or chew on campus.

“Secondhand smoke is a Class A carcinogen meaning there is no safe level of exposure to secondhand smoke,” Syverson wrote in an email.

Under the policy, “No secondhand smoke outside of residence hall windows or as you are walking to class. Also, less littering of cigarette butts on campus as each filter has an afterlife of 5-7 years before it completely breaks down. No spit or chew in water fountains or in bottles in class,” said Syverson.

The UWRF alcohol, tobacco and other drug coalition was established in 1999 in connection with the first UW System alcohol symposium. The original 1999 mission was “To reduce binge drinking among UWRF students.”

In December 2011, the coalition transitioned to the Chancellor’s advisory council on alcohol, tobacco and other drugs.

The vision of the council is to create a sustainable campus community where the harmful effects of alcohol, tobacco and other drugs are minimized, according to Syverson. Membership in the council includes interested students, faculty and staff, as well as community members.

In 2003, similar open forums were held on campus to gather opinions on the 25- foot radius policy. This policy can be found in the Wisconsin Administrative Code under chapter 18.08, parent 11 titled Smoking. The fine for not following the 25-foot radius policy can be at minimum $200.50, according to Officer David Kuether of Campus Police.

“Usually when we get a smoking complaint it is about the smoke entering the buildings through the ventilation system,” Kuether said.

“The upper level north facing library doors is where we receive the most complaints of smoke entering the building.”

Student Samantha Jaskowski explained that although she knows about the rules and tries to stay away from buildings when she smokes, it can be easy to forget when not enforced.

“If the 25-foot rule isn’t being enforced, would a complete ban work? I don’t think a ban will completely stop people from smoking,” Jaskowski said. “Some people will forget, and some people won’t care.”

The open forums will be held at 9 a.m. Tuesday, May 1 in the Kinni Theater at the University Center, and at 3 p.m. on May 2 at the Blanche Davis Theatre in the Kleinpell Fine Arts building. More information about the event can be found by contacting Student Health and Counseling Services at 425-3293.