Guest Editorial: Going 'smoke free' at UAS will take more than a few campus signs

The following editorial was written by students in Rosemarie Alexander’s journalism class at the University of Alaska Southeast:

 

The University of Alaska Southeast campus goes tobacco free on July 1.

All tobacco-related products will be banned from UAS property and facilities. The move is the result of a December 2014 decision by the University of Alaska Board of Regents, which approved the policy and set it to be implemented system-wide by the end of this year.

Although UAS administrators have a vague plan in place, we suggest they specify how the ban will be enforced, provide on-campus tobacco alternatives and make information on the ban more readily available to students, staff and visitors.

According to the new UA tobacco regulation, signs stating “no smoking, no tobacco use” will be placed around campus. Michael Ciri, UAS Vice Chancellor of Administration, said the plan calls for zone maps indicating all campus property boundaries. The regulation also states that enforcement will depend on the “consideration and cooperation of both users and non-users of tobacco, and the willingness of all members of the University community to share the responsibility of adhering to and enforcing the prohibition, and of holding themselves and each other accountable.”

We find the administration’s assumption that UAS will effectively police itself to be inadequate. With no clear consequences for violations, we predict a lack of cooperation.

The tobacco ban is part of a nationwide trend. According to the lobbying organization Americans for Nonsmokers’ Rights, 1,543 campuses were tobacco free as of April 2. Arizona State University in Tempe adopted the policy in 2013. We believe UAS should follow ASU’s lead by creating an informative tobacco-free website. It should include zone maps, quitting resources, tobacco-free videos and posters, and annual progress reports on tobacco use and cost savings.

What is the point of a policy if it isn’t going to be enforced? UAS should hire and train student compliance officers to enforce the tobacco ban. Not only would this guarantee perpetrators are confronted, it would also ensure repeat offenders are recognized, among other benefits.

In addition, UAS needs to clearly define the progression of sanctions for tobacco ban violations. The first consequence should simply be a warning. A second offense should result in litter pick-up around campus, and a third offense should result in a fine.

Cessation programs are already in place at UAS through Alaska’s Tobacco Quit Line, which offers nicotine replacement therapy supplies by mail on request. When the ban goes into effect, cessation products, such as nicotine gum, should be available directly from the UAS Health Clinic. When students and staff are no longer allowed to smoke on campus, immediate tobacco alternatives should be offered.

Despite how simple it might sound, implementing a tobacco-free campus is complicated and requires the consideration of smokers’ and nonsmokers’ rights. We agree our community should hold one another accountable to campus conduct policies, but UAS should also adopt a stronger, more specific plan for enforcing the ban and penalizing violators if it is to be a successful endeavor.

• The above editorial was written by Andrew Ainsworth, Glenn Hoskinson, Hannah Meyer and Chrystal Randolph.

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