Editor’s note: The author is interning in the Spotlight News newsroom.
A journalism professor of mine at SUNY New Paltz joked that he always knew which of his students were the smokers, as they continuously looked at the clock and tapped their fingers in anticipation of their next smoke at the end of class.
When it comes to smoking, the New Paltz campus has a policy that all smokers must stay 50 feet away from entryways to dorm and classroom buildings when having a cigarette, but those who abide by that rule are few and far between. Walking through campus, you can see smokers, students and professors alike, sitting on dorm patios (barely 10 feet from entryways), and benches just outside of classroom buildings. Yet, in my three years at New Paltz, I have yet to see campus police monitor smokers.
With cigarette butts littering sidewalks and students caught smoking cigarettes in dorm rooms, smoking has clearly become a problem for campus officials and the custodial staff. After my professor joked about student smokers, he brought up a serious question: How much is spent cleaning the campus up after smokers?
Recently, the SUNY Board of Trustees approved a ban on smoking on state university campuses. While the ban has yet to be put into effect by the New York State Legislature, some campuses, such as SUNY Buffalo and Cortland, are already smoke-free, and rumors have been flying that there will be a smoking ban on all SUNY campuses by January 2014.
While a non-smoker myself, I began to wonder about the logistics behind campus-wide smoking bans. There is something illogical about imagining students and professors running off campus property for a quick puff of a cigarette between classes. And although many students would not complain, there is also the issue of professors needing to cross campus to smoke, which will inevitably cut into class time.
An alternative to a strict smoking ban would be to create designated smoking areas. In either case, would it then be the job of campus police to monitor smokers to ensure they do not set foot on campus or outside of designated areas with a lit cigarette? And if so, why not police smokers who are not abiding by campus rule now?
Rather than force smokers from campus, where their personal safety, especially at night, becomes yet another issue to address with this possible ban, why should campus police not instead more strictly enforce current university policies, such as New Paltz’s 50-feet rule, which can be monitored en masse?
The logistics of a SUNY-wide smoke-free campus policy do not seem well thought out. The effort that will potentially have to be put into maintaining the ban seems more than it is worth, especially taking into consideration the effort, or lack thereof, taken to enforce smoking policies now.
More money may be spent on campus-wide smoker checks than routine checks to ensure 50 feet stands between smokers and the nearest entryways. And if the effort to enforce policies now is so little, there is nothing to say efforts will rise if the ban goes into effect.
The New York Legislature and SUNY Board of Trustees may have a few unforeseen hurtles to cross before enacting new smoking regulations. A return to the drawing board might be necessary before something feasible and enforceable is decided upon.