Future of campus smoking rights cloudy
Published: Wednesday, October 24, 2012
Updated: Wednesday, October 24, 2012 00:10
Last week, FGCU’s Student Senate discussed a resolution for a smoke-free campus for the first time this semester. This week, however, there was no mention of a possible resolution on Tuesday night’s student senate agenda.
“I know it’s been talked about for several years, probably as long as the university has been here we’ve talked about it,” said Nora Demers, an associate professor in the department of biological sciences.
“It’s just related to public health, exposure to secondhand smoke; trying to create a space where human health is important as well as the littering. We’ve been struggling with it as long as we’ve been open.”
In a campus-wide survey conducted in February by a committee of students, faculty and staff created to research the issue, 55.86 percent of the 3,274 participants said they would be in favor of a campus-wide ban on smoking.
In a related survey discussing North Lake, West Lake and South Lake Village, 51.42 percent of the 2,802 participants said they would be in favor of a smoke-free residential area. Only 26 percent of those polled said they would not be in favor of the ban. An additional 21 percent said they had no opinion on the subject or needed more information.
“We wanted to use an instrument that had already been validated, we didn’t want to create our own,” Demers said of the survey. “We found one that seemed to suit our purposes, then we wanted to make sure we got enough people to take it. It was sent out to all student email addresses; it was also set out to all faculty email addresses and all staff email addresses. It was open for a couple of weeks.”
In an online poll conducted by Eagle News from Oct. 16 to Oct. 23, 58 percent of 126 participants said they would be in favor of a campus-wide smoking ban.
However, there were a moderate number of students that responded negatively to the idea. Of the participants, 35 percent said they would be against a campus-wide smoking ban.
Tommy Lamartina, a sophomore majoring in computer science, doesn’t see the need for a ban.
“Why be lame like that?” Lamartina said. “I just think that we should be able to. We want to smoke, so let us smoke. We’re college kids, there’s so much good going around us, why are we even worried about
the scent from someone’s cigarette? In the grand scheme of things, what does walking by (the smoking section) do to your day?”
If a smoke-free campus resolution passed and a ban was put into effect, FGCU would become the fourth state university to ban smoking.
“I’d like to see the current student government take a position,” Demers said. “It’s not my place to say what that position is. I’d like to see the students acting through their Student Government to voice their opinion on whether or not the University should be smoke free.”
However, banning smoking on campus isn’t as simple as Student Government passing the resolution; student senate can only sponsor the resolution. After a resolution is passed, the ban must pass through and be implemented by President Wilson Bradshaw and the Board of Trustees.
“All we can do as faculty, staff or students is provide our advice, our counsel, our opinion to the university leadership,” Demers said.
“President Bradshaw and the Board of Trustees ultimately make the decision on whether or not the campus becomes smoke-free. I believe that the reason is that he wants to hear from his constituents to make sure that if he is enacting a policy, there are enough people that want that to come to pass.”
Although talks are starting up again, a final resolution may not pass anytime soon.
“There is no timeline,” Demers said. “There is no road, there are no stop signs along the road, none of that. We could well be here again next year having the same conversation again and the year after that.”
Demers knows it would be difficult for smokers to quit, but as a former smoker, she knows that it is possible.
“I would say that they don’t think enough about themselves,” Demers said. “It is a habit. It can be broken. I’m a former smoker. We are capable of much more than we think. It might be difficult, but we can do it. And this would provide those people with further incentive.”