Battling butts

The controversial debate over a campus-wide smoking ban has students split. Although some think a ban would be a good idea for the health of nonsmokers, others feel it would be a violation of smoker’s rights.

The same issue exists in the Minnesota State Student Association where, after various meetings with the senate ending up split on the issue, it eventually decided to oppose the ban.

“We decided we’d rather see our current policy better enforced rather than have a whole new one brought in,” said MSSA President Ryan Anderson. “We decided the university should come up with some alternatives or enforcement ideas before we decide to implement a new policy.”

Minnesota State’s current smoking policy bans smoking within 15 feet of an entrance. Under the new proposal, smoking would be banned on the entire campus. Like the current policy, the new plan would run on the peer system, where there would be no actual punishment system in place. Rather, students would be responsible for asking other students to stop smoking.

“There’s no MnSCU policy authority for us to create fines,” said Rick Straka, vice president of finance and administration, who is in charge of creating the new policy. “It wouldn’t be like issuing parking tickets, where you have a license plate number and registered owner of a vehicle. It would be much less informed than that.”

Straka said that the smoking ban was proposed by MSU President Richard Davenport.

“He wanted to bring about a policy that would ban the use and sale of tobacco on campus,” Straka said. “It’s been through a review process and we’ve just finished going through the final phase. We looked at other schools across the country who have smoking bans and tried to create one similar to ones they have.”

According to Straka, several other schools have recently gone smoke free. Minnesota State University-Moorhead banned smoking, and the University of Minnesota-Crookston recently announced it would be smoke free beginning January 2009. Winona State is considering a smoking ban as well.

Wendy Schuh, assistant director of alcohol and drug education, said a smoke-free campus would create healthier students.

“When a survey on tobacco was done at Moorhead, students listed campus as one of the top places where they were exposed to second-hand smoke,” Schuh said. “The methods we have now help with exposure, but many smokers don’t follow these policies. If the campus were smoke-free, there would be fewer violators.”

Straka agreed that health was the main reason for the policy.

“We want to make campus a healthier place for non-smokers,” Straka said. “At the same time, we will work diligently with offering stop-smoking programs for smokers.”

Another reason is the image of MSU.

“It would make for a cleaner campus because there wouldn’t be cigarette butts on the ground,” Anderson said. “Also, it’s not cost efficient for the general maintenance workers to spend a lot of time picking up cigarette butts.”

Students’ opinions on the smoking ban vary. While some think it would be a good idea, others are opposed.

“It would make for a healthier campus,” said Isaac Abegaz, a biology sophomore. “But then how would people smoke? I can see people missing class in order to smoke.”

“I’m a smoker, but I’m not forcing anyone else to smoke, and it’s not like I’m not blowing smoke in anyone’s face” said Subodh Thapa, a management information systems freshman. “There’s no use for a ban. It’s impossible to go off-campus and smoke, and I think it would make me miss class. If it is banned, there should be some sort of smoking lounge on campus.”

While the issue of students missing class arisen in senate, Anderson said that the addition of a smoking lounge would cost money and be illogical.

Davenport and his cabinet still have to debate the proposal and if the policy is passed, it more than likely would be implemented on July 1st, with a one-year phase-in for the residence halls in order to give prospective MSU students a warning.

“Only a slight majority of students are in favor of the ban,” Anderson said. “We need to think about the minority too. We need actual enforcement of our current policy. If people are respectful, it’s easy to avoid second-hand smoke.”

Dannielle Higginbotham is a Reporter staff writer

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