What you need to know about UT’s tobacco ban
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The long controversial tobacco ban around campus was instated recently in an attempt to make the school a healthier place.
The tobacco ban, established last spring, also bans chewing tobacco, cigarettes, e-cigarettes, cigars, snus and pipes.
Many students agree with the ban, including Alexis Blavos, a fourth-year doctoral graduate assistant in the Department of Health and Recreation Professions. Having smoked for ten years before quitting ten years ago, Blavos said the initiative is fantastic.
“Over 1,000 universities across the country have gone tobacco-free in the last few years,” Blavos said. “I’m glad that UT is finally following this trend.”
Blavos also mentioned that in her Ph.D. program research, she found studies conducted to show that tobacco-free campuses improve the health and satisfaction of students, faculty, and staff.
“It truly is an initiative that promotes the health of all students, faculty, staff and visitors,” Blavos said. “I’m proud to go to a tobacco-free campus.”
Austin Warchol, a first-year majoring in mechanical engineering, agreed with Blavos.
“The smoking and overall tobacco ban is a great thing in my eyes,” Warchol said. “During the summer I was around enough secondhand smoke at work, and it makes me happy to know that I don’t have to worry about any of the health risks that come with smoke-filled air.”
Warchol also believes the ban will bring with it some frustration from quite a few students, but overall it will be a great step towards a cleaner and healthier campus.
UTPD’s Chief of Police Jeff Newton believes the ban is good for the campus because he thinks that students often begin an addictive tobacco habit during their college years at a high cost to their health and quality of life in their near futures.
When asked how the ban would be enforced, Newton said, “Everyone at UT has responsibility toward enforcement, be it at a minimum level to follow the policy and report violations, or for some administrators/department heads, following up on violations.”
“Violating the tobacco-free [initiative] will be handled like any other UT policy — for students through the code of conduct process and employees through progressive discipline,” Newton said.
Newton also said refusals to follow this new policy could result in a conduct or progressive discipline referral.
“Campuses all over the nation are moving to tobacco-free policies,” Newton said. “It only makes sense for UT to move in a similar direction.”
The ban lead to the removal of the smoking huts in order to get rid of the available areas for tobacco product use on campus. These huts began to be taken down in July.
Director of Rocket Wellness Vicki Riddick said, “When tobacco use was restricted in 2011, it was with the understanding that UT would eventually eliminate tobacco altogether.”
According to Riddick, statistics from the Tobacco-Free College Campus Initiative — released by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services — show there are 937 universities nationwide that have gone tobacco-free and 1,372 colleges and universities that have gone smoke-free.
“UT Rocket Wellness is here to provide support and educational services on the tobacco-free environment,” Riddick said. “We understand that quitting tobacco is not an easy task and we are committed to assist those who choose not to use tobacco while on campus.”
Not everyone is in favor of the smoking ban, though. Kayla Beck, a second-year majoring in social work, is one of those opposed.
“I think keeping the smoke in a confined area was perfect,” Beck said. “Smokers could also be courteous and not smoke by doors or anything.”
Beck also said she thinks people will find a way around this, or that they simply won’t care.
Some students feel that they are unaffected by the ban, such as first-year mechanical engineering major Brad Smith.
“After working all summer long with other people that smoke a lot, it really doesn’t bother me,” Smith said. “The obvious health benefits are there, but I really don’t mind being around it.”
According to a survey conducted in late 2013, about 60 percent of the 5,080 students questioned were in favor of a ban.
This ban was debated for quite a while. In November 2013, Student Government voted the ban down 12 to 11. It was then that Emily Kramp and Lauren Jencen, the SG president and vice president at that time, decided to push for the initiative without backing from SG.
Becoming a tobacco-free campus means that there will be a cultural shift around UT, and Riddick realizes this will take time for the community to get used to. This is why measures have been taken to ensure help will be available for students who wish to stop using tobacco products.
“Students may contact Will Pecsok, Associate Director of the Counseling Center on main campus, at 419-530-8436, or the medical centers on main campus 419-530-3451 and Health Science Campus 419-383-3777,” Riddick said. “Employees can access tobacco cessation services at Rocket Wellness 419-383-2348.”