Measure scheduled to go into effect June 30, 2013
By Jenny Hottle
Tuesday, July 11, 2012
Originally posted on diamondbackonline.com.
The days of students taking smoke breaks on the steps of McKeldin Library will soon be over after the Board of Regents approved a policy last month banning smoking on the campus.
The policy, which will take effect June 30, 2013, prohibits smoking on the campus’ grounds, outdoor structures and school vehicles of all University System of Maryland institutions. USM spokesman Mike Lurie said the measure allows for “narrow exceptions to the smoking ban with the presidents’ approval” and that each university president will be able to designate a “very limited area” where smoking could occur without interfering with the health of others.
“There was a consensus among the presidents that it was beneficial to the health of all the campus communities for the system to adopt a policy that would ban smoking on university property and otherwise promote smoke-free campus environments across the system,” Lurie said.
University President Wallace Loh said he supported the measure and plans to keep the health and well-being of students, faculty and staff a top priority. Administrative Affairs staff will work over the next year to determine penalties for violations and any designated smoking areas, he said.
“The health risks of smoking are well-documented, and so I fully support the policy developed by the Board of Regents to provide a smoke-free environment on our campus,” he said in a statement.
College Park resident Tyler Smith, sitting near the Testudo statue with a cigarette in hand, said the ban should have been in place for years. Although he has smoked on and off since he was about 14 years old, Smith said he was glad the new policy would prevent some students from picking up the habit and encourage others to kick it.
“No doubt it will help people stop smoking,” he said. “What is perceived as a stubborn rule changes peoples’ psyche … and they find rigid ways to quit.”
Three USM institutions are already designated as smoke-free campuses — Frostburg State University since last summer and Salisbury University and Towson University since August 2010. Lurie said their policies “really have been a nonissue” since their implementation.
Jerry Dieringer, an assistant vice president for student affairs at Towson, said officials saw many complaints under the college’s old policy — similar to this university’s policy prohibiting smoking within 25 feet of any building entrance, air intake duct or window — and it was difficult to enforce.
Dieringer said Towson’s smoke-free policy has “gone very well,” adding the school saw about 100 violations in the first year and about half as many this past year.
In addition to banning smoking on institution campuses, the new policy will also ban the on-campus sale of tobacco and smoking-related products in addition to encouraging smoking cessation assistance for students and university employees.
“As an asthmatic, smoke is a trigger,” sophomore computer engineering major Triana Akila said. “So not only is it annoying, but it is also hazardous to my health.”
Edie Anderson, a smoking cessation counselor at the University Health Center, said the university offers a “very personalized program” for clients who seek to quit smoking by surveying and evaluating clients’ needs and discussing their habit.
Junior computer science major Dylan Veraart said he recognizes the harm of secondhand smoke but said the ban seemed too restrictive.
“People — with very few exceptions — are capable of walking away or asking the smoker to move if they don’t want to be exposed to secondhand smoke,” he said.
Anderson said while the policy seeks to lower the number of smokers on the campus and will prevent secondhand smoke issues, it will not necessarily prompt smokers to quit.