Students share their reactions after Stetson goes tobacco-free
As the year begins, a major policy change to the Stetson campus is the ban on tobacco products.
As of August 1, both the DeLand and Gulfport campuses will officially be completely tobacco and smoke-free areas. Opinions within the student body on the new policy, called Breathe Free, are mixed.
The details of the plan include the banning of multiple tobacco and smoking-related products.
Besides just cigarettes, cigars and chewing tobacco are prohibited. Electronic cigarettes, though popular for not producing the same amount of smoke as traditional cigarettes, have also been banned from use on campus, cited as “not being a healthy alternative to smoking” by the university.
From 2007 until this year, the general smoking policies included no smoking inside buildings, within a certain number of feet near buildings, near air vents, or within any areas labeled non-smoking.
However, these rules were often ignored or simply not reported. Even outdoor furniture far within the designated non-smoking areas from buildings show scars from years of cigarette burns.
To those who proposed and backed the policy, it was the health and safety of the student body, the faculty, and guests of Stetson that was far more concerning than the aesthetic of the campus.
The university’s policy main page states that the university wants to put the well-being of the students, faculty, and any visitors of the school above all else. The university task force believes the policy will be positive for both smokers and non smokers.
“Our university commitment to health and wellness, one of our shared values, requires us to protect non-smokers but also to support smokers in reconsidering a behavior that has been scientifically proven to have serious long-term health consequences,” reads the Breathe Free entry on Stetson’s website.
Kassie Ledoux, a senior pre-med student and Tobacco Peer Educator, helped in researching and proposing Breathe Free. She says that the Tobacco Peer Educators, along with other students involved with Wellness and Recreation, have been working on and researching factors about the policy for a long time.
“It’s exciting to see the policy in effect as I, as well as other Tobacco Peer Educators, have worked very, very hard doing a lot of research on the harmful effects of tobacco, as well as strategies for a truly effective tobacco free campus-wide policy.”
The policy change, like any major change on campus, has been met with a variety of opinions from the student body.
Sophomore Emily Goodwin, although a non-smoker, is not fully in support of Breathe Free. Goodwin believes although students should have the right to breathe clean air, that the policy change is too drastic and infringes on the rights of smokers.
“People have the right to smoke if they choose, though I don’t personally like or do it isn’t fair to those who do,” Goodwin says. “I think [the policy]is too dramatic. Maybe more regulated designated smoking areas would have been a better move.”
Sean Strott, a junior and regular smoker, is not very fond of the policy either.
“The old regulated smoking areas were poorly labeled, and not very centrally located, so people tended to ignore them,” Strott said. “However, better, clearly labeled areas are a better idea than such a sudden, drastic change.”
Strott says the policy will not influence him to quit smoking.
Learning about the policy did not influence incoming freshman Emily Willis’ decision in choosing Stetson, but she supports it fully. Willis says she has no problems with Breathe Free, but believes it will be initially difficult for returning students, especially smokers, to follow the policy.
“I am impressed the campus is taking steps to try to be healthy,” Willis says. “It’s going to be hard to enforce as first, but as the years go by, it will become less and less of a strange new rule and more of just everyday life.”
The school will continue to educate the students and community about the new policy through a series of informational sessions and health fairs over the next year. The policy will also be clearly mentioned in marketing and on student tours of campus.
Future issues surrounding the policy change are bound to arise. However, this is normal for any major new policy that needs to be enforced on such a large scale.
While it is scientifically sound that smoking is a habit that is harmful to one’s health, it is the right to make their own choices that the students feel the policy infringes on.
Sophomore Jason Cruz said smokers who do not want to take the initiative to quit should not be forced, but believes Breathe Free allows other non-smoking students some freedom as well.
“I think students should be able to make their own decisions,” says Cruz. “We have the same right to not be subject to the decisions of smokers while on campus…There are plenty of non-campus places to smoke if you don’t want to quit, and non-smokers don’t have to worry about their trip to the coffee shop being interrupted by a coughing fit.”
Ledoux agrees that it is up to the student to make the right choices, but also believes the policy will help students make better personal decisions regarding their health.
“Personal and social responsibility are among some of the values we strive to uphold at Stetson University, and health falls into those categories” Ledoux says. “Healthier students means endless possibilities to be significant.”
One sophomore student and regular smoker, who wishes to remain anonymous, says she actually supports the policy and thinks it will help her in her decision to quit, and hopes it will help others to do so if they choose. She says seeing others smoking around campus could be triggering her own efforts to stop. However, she is concerned that the policy casts a “harsh light” on smokers.
“There’s a bias against smokers, that the habit is dirty and that people who smoke are somehow inferior to those who have never smoked,” she says. “ But I think the policy can be helpful if it’s executed correctly, in a way that encourages smokers to quit altogether as opposed to just saying ‘take your habit elsewhere.’”