Oswego State moves smokers 5 more feet toward smoke-free

Cigarette butts lay on the ground just outside the walkway from Hart Hall to Cooper Dining Hall.  (Jihyoung Son | The Oswegonian)
Cigarette butts lay on the ground just outside the walkway from Hart Hall to Cooper Dining Hall. (Jihyoung Son | The Oswegonian)

Oswego State will be a smoke-free campus by 2014, a change many students welcome, though the details of the policy remain questionable.

On April 19, the Oswego State website’s campus news section featured a post on the new policy, indicating that starting in fall 2013, the smoking perimeter from the building entrance has been moved to 25 feet, from 20 feet in 2012. By 2014 the whole campus should be a smoke-free area.

The policy follows the SUNY Board of Trustees’ approval of a comprehensive tobacco-free policy on all 64 SUNY campuses by Jan. 1, 2014 and Chancellor Nancy L. Zimpher’s task force for a tobacco-free SUNY.

Reactions to the campus smoking policy.

However, current Oswego State policy relies on smokers’ and other students’ cooperation for its success. Those who fail to comply with the policy, regardless of the previous warnings, are supposed to undergo the disciplinary action of the Office of Human Resources or the Office of Judicial Affairs. All the policies follow Article 13E of the New York State Public Health Law as amended July 24, 2003, according to the police.

“What happens most of the time, is if there is a student smoking too close to the building or in the building is, somebody just asks them to move,” said Julie Bissert, the director of public affairs. “The warning shall be put in a student conduct file.”

According to Bissert the next step would result in probation. Bissert also said she wasn’t aware of reported cases of disciplinary action taken previously.

Oswego State has implemented a new smoking policy on campus. (Patrick Malowski | The Oswegonian)
Oswego State has implemented a new smoking policy on campus. (Patrick Malowski | The Oswegonian)

Many students welcome Oswego State’s plan for a smoke-free campus.

“Smoke-free campus 2014 is a good idea, as I don’t need to concern about the secondhand smoke around the campus anymore,” said Jordan Hermann, a senior history and graphic design major.

Josh Androff, a senior technology education major, who introduced himself as a smoker, also voiced approval.

“I can smoke when I get back home. It is okay for me to bear it,” Androff said.

But some students who live in the residence halls might have a different opinion. Linfeng Li, a freshman in the MBA program and resident of Hart Hall, said she might move because of the policy.

“I’m considering getting a new house off campus after this semester is over,” Li said. “If school could not permit me to smoke outside anywhere, there is no option, no matter how much it would cost.”

This situation Oswego State faces is comparable to that of UCLA, which was the first to craft the tobacco cessation policy. UCLA adopted the policy after Mark Yudoff, president of the UC system, sent a January 2012 letter to university chancellors asking them to create smoke-free policies for their campuses within two years.

Since April 22, UCLA any use of tobacco products, including cigarettes, cigars, water pipes (hookah) and smokeless tobacco products (e.g., “e-cigarettes”) is banned on UCLA’s campus, unless permitted for use in research or ceremony.

UCLA accomplished the ban by forcing violators to go through mandatory classes. Students there will be educated on the dangers of smoking and on how to seek treatment for tobacco dependence.

This isn’t just an issue in the U.S. Overseas, similar policies have been implemented. Some universities in South Korea are on the way to enforcing an isolated smoking area. The public facility, which includes the campus, has to distinguish the smoking area from the smoke-free area, according to the Implementation to the Enhancement of Public Health Law from Ministry of Health and Welfare in South Korea.

Beyond this, some universities have installed outdoor smoking booths, which isolate the smoke from the outside by having smokers inside it. The smoke can then be filtered out through an air purifier in the booth.

The Student Council of Korea University had requested the installation of booths and became the first university in South Korea to set up two smoking booths. Sogang University and Joongang University have successfully designated the legal isolated smoking area.

“There hasn’t been discussion about that,” Burns said. “Because part of the goal in getting people to not smoke, is all the environmental effects of cigarette butts.”

Isolated smoking areas would most likely result in large collections of used butts.

Unlike these alternatives, the details of the 2014 smoke free SUNY campus plan have yet to be determined.

“On how you put out that policy and enforce the policy, we aren’t there yet,” said Liz Burns, nurse practitioner and director of Mary Walker Health Center, “Presently, it is a warning.”

Burns also added that if the policy were taken under not the suggestion of the Chancellor’s letter, but the top-down procedure, the policy would become more clear.

“The committee, or the focus group, is working on this. The policy, which may take effect in 2014, would apply to all tobacco products, including not only the cigarettes, but also all tobacco-related products. However, it requires more discussion,” Bissert said.

In the meantime, the committee will continue to consider its options in pursuit of a method that promises clean air, but is considerate to all students.
Jihyoung Son
Contributing Writer
news@oswegonian.com