By Brooke Moody—
It’s hard to ignore the pungent, musty odor of cigarette smoke. Students at U of L are all too familiar with this smell. It’s a common sight to see smokers lingering outside between classes, puffing out clouds of permeating smoke. But wait—isn’t the University of Louisville a smoke-free campus?
Officially, the university is a “smoke-free.” On Nov. 18, 2010 the university adopted a no smoking policy. The policy states that the “smoking of any substance is not allowed on any of the U of L campuses,” yet a visit to campus would reveal an atmosphere where smoking is prevalent.
To measure the extent to which the university was “smoke-free,” a group of students recently spent nearly 40 hours over two nonconsecutive weeks counting smokers on the Belknap campus. The numbers they collected exposed a staggering amount of people smoking. The students recorded nearly 400 accounts of smoking on campus, most of which occurred in high-traffic, conspicuous locations. Seventeen students went to all four corners of campus, counting people on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Thursdays and Fridays at times ranging from noon to 5 p.m. Students were placed such that they would never count the same student twice.
“I hate smoke. It messes with my allergies that are already bad at this time and it stinks,” says U of L student Haley Williams. “I’ll be walking behind someone, and all of a sudden I’m walking through a big smoke cloud.”
Many other students attested to the high number of smokers they encounter throughout their week.
“I think it can be misleading to students that we advertise a smoke free campus, when in reality we are not. Nothing is more irritating than walking to class at Davidson or Ekstrom and having to be around people smoking,” says senior Amanda Allen. “Second hand smoke health risks are real. However, I understand the reality of enforcing such a policy on a public university campus, and I know it’s difficult to enforce said policy. Maybe we should be proactive in advocating for alternatives to overcome smoking addiction.”
If U of L is smoke-free, then how do so many people get away with smoking on campus? The answer lies within the details of the policy, specifically how it is enforced.
Director of Public Safety Wayne Hall said, “We have not issued any citations for smoking on campus. Smoking on campus is not a criminal offense.”
Currently, there is no punishment for students, faculty, staff or guests who smoke on campus. People are just expected to honor the rules.
This honor system of has done little to dissuade people from smoking on campus, an action that has serious implications for the entire campus community. According to a report issued by the U.S. Surgeon, “there is no risk-free level of exposure to secondhand smoke.”
The purpose of U of L’s no-smoking policy was to eliminate this threat and create a safer, healthier campus community. However, the campaign that began five years ago has quietly dwindled.
In recent years, university officials have noted the ebb of the policy, leading to the creation of the Smoke-Free Committee. In conjunction with the Student Government Association, the Smoke-Free Committee is working to recharge the policy.
Former Provost Shirley Willihnganz challenged the committee and SGA to develop an enforcement strategy for the no-smoking policy. Originally set to be ready for review by the end of 2015, the strategy was delayed when Provost Willihnganz stepped down in June.
With interim provost Neville Pinto and CFO/COO Harlan Sands, the Smoke-Free Committee is continuing to develop enforcement strategies but their completion and implementation date is still unknown.
The wish for the enforcement of smoke-free policy is not universal on campus. Smokers believe that smoking should not be regulated at all.
“These liberals taking my constitutional right to smoke where I want to smoke is bulls***,” says junior Michael Barnes.
“I thinks it’s unfair and discriminatory. I don’t like it, and I think it’s too controlling,” says DeAnna Shiner, a U of L employee. “Too many people are trying to control things, and they need to start controlling their own lives and not smoking.”
Data collected from the U of L National College Health Assessment conducted in 2012 shows that nearly 85 percent of participants support the enforcement of U of L’s smoke-free policy.
Unless a stricter smoking-ban is in place, however, there is no sign that smoking will disappear from campus any time soon.
Graphic and photo by Sarah Rohleder / The Louisville Cardinal