Congregations of smokers are a familiar sight to any USF student. However, this school year, USF’s Health Promotion Services enacted a policy to make USF a 100 percent smoke free campus. Their slogan “Breathe Easy USF” has made the Foghorn ask themselves if students are actually breathing any easier with the recent changes. We say no. As a whole, the staff agrees that students should seek a tobacco-free lifestyle and prioritize their health over smoking. However, USF’s Breathe Easy USF policy is weak and a smoking “ban” has done little to curb this issue. In a difficult move, USF has managed to upset both smokers and nonsmokers with the new smoking ban.
As reported by the Foghorn in our Aug. 31 issue, a university-wide email announced that USF would be smoke-free effective Aug. 1. It is now the final week of September and the Foghorn has recognized several flaws in the policy that undermine its goal. For starters, banning smoking on campus has simply pushed students to smoke on the sidewalks surrounding campus. These choke points include the narrow passage in front of Harney and the bottom of Lone Mountain. Both of these areas sit just off the edge of campus and block a key route students take between classes. Every staff member voiced their frustration with passing by an immobile group of smokers. These choke points created jams of people during busy passing periods.
It is not restricted to main campus. For a particular staff member, dodging the wall of smokers and slamming into a thick plume of cigarette smoke is a daily chore on the way to Masonic. The university’s policy of a smoke-free campus has addressed the issue at hand, but has not made the problem go away entirely. Instead, it shifted this section of the student body to the outskirts of campus and forced them to congregate in high-traffic areas.
While smoking is detrimental to one’s health, a staff member who smokes noted the smoking garden provided a community for a certain section of the USF student body. The garden helped bring out shy personalities and gave a sense of belonging. With the tobacco ban, the inclusive community of the Smoking Garden is gone, but smokers still group together around campus despite the new policy. In other words, the problem of smoking still exists, but students have lost a space they once treasured.
The University offers a solution to smokers who would be affected by this measure. According to their website, Health Promotion Services will “make available smoking cessation programs to students, staff, and faculty to facilitate the transition to a smoke-free life.” Of course, the staff of the Foghorn agrees that students should aim to be smoke-free. However, we are concerned with the policy measures that USF has mandated. Due to a hasty mandate without enforcement, this policy has caused even more issues around smoking on campus.
Adding to the smoking ban’s ineptitude is the concept of “clean air marshals.” These air marshals are undergraduate and graduate students who encourage students not to smoke on campus. Notice, we said “encourage,” not “tell.” These air marshals have zero jurisdiction to stop students from smoking. This leads to another flaw of the smoking ban: its enforcement capabilities. Public Safety can’t stop people from smoking and the blunt of deterrment falls on volunteers called “clean air marshals.” According to the USF webpage for the tobacco policy, “peer implementation and observance of this policy will be the duty of every student, staff, faculty, and visitor on campus.” Whoever thought of the name “air marshall” is as out of touch with college students as the person who thought “peer implementation” would stop students from smoking. We collectively agree that USF’s air marshals are a weak solution to discouraging smoking on campus.
If anyone is to benefit from this poorly executed ban, it’s only helicopter parents reading a “USF is smoke-free!” headline. USF has done nothing to actually mitigate smoking. Besides the loitering, our staff identified an increase in cigarette butts, litter, noise, and traffic jams for neighboring apartments of USF, as well. We believe that if USF would truly like to implement a smoking ban on campus, it must use Public Safety officers to remove smokers from campus. If they are not willing to do so, then USF should expect no real change in complaints surrounding smoking.