Breathe Free: No smoking policy two years later

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By Brian Harris, Staff Writer

You may or may not have realized it, but we had a monumental anniversary over the summer: two whole years of a “Smoke Free Campus” here at UMassD.

June 1, 2015 is a day that too many is one to celebrate, bringing with it an end to public smoking across the campus.

But just how did a change as massive as this come to pass back then?  To find out more about the origins of the massive undertaking, the Torch spoke with Dr. David Milstone, the Associate Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs, and an influential part of the decision to go smoke free.

“Given all that we know about the negative effects of second-hand smoke on non-smokers, the Chancellor at the time, Dr. Divina Grossman, asked me and the Associate Vice Chancellor for Human Resources, Carol Santos, to bring together a University committee to look at the desirability of changing the smoking policy.”

As the Torch would find out, the decision wasn’t entirely dictated by the school; there was definite student support as well.

“We started by doing a campus-wide survey that received 2000 responses,” Dr. Milstone recounted.  “This told us that the majority of community members wanted to have a more strict policy relating to smoking.”

However, the subject still has its own wealth of controversy and detractors.  Take for example Josue Rivera, a sophomore majoring in computer science.

“…it’s kind of funny,” Josue commented with a laugh, “…at the front of the school it says smoke free campus but everywhere I look, I always see people smoking.”

The policy’s effectiveness has always been its biggest question, and while some students claim ineffectiveness, Dr. Milstone pointed out the ways he’s seen the school improve since its implementation.

“There are far fewer cigarette butts left outside [of] buildings, far fewer complaints of people smoking in doorways…and few-to-no trashcan fires caused by cigarettes tossed into the trash.  There have been a few isolated incidents of reported smoking, but most were resolved by simply reminding the person of the campus policy.”

But not everyone is as convinced two years in. Take for example Nicholas Wall, a senior accounting major who raises concerns of fairness.  “…I do think that we need to at least create areas for smokers.  The idea that you have to walk away from the campus to smoke is ridiculous and frankly doesn’t work.  If you made smoking areas and also made a rule of no smoking in the campus center quad, and no smoking within 50 feet of any door, I think it would solve a lot more issues than flatly banning it.”

The idea of designated smoking areas was one commonly brought up by interviewed students as a possible compromise.  Interestingly, Dr. Milstone brought this up himself in the interview.

“In the end, the committee recommended that we not have a two-step process (designate a smoking area in year-one and going smoke free in year-two)…that we should implement the final policy in one step.”

Two years in, and the campus is still divided on the idea of the smoke free campus.  Some love it, some hate it, and some are right in the middle.  But one thing’s for certain: it’s here, and it’s here to stay.

Photo Courtesy: umassd.edu

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