Can USF Breathe Easy?

In the U.S., many deaths have occurred due to both cigarettes and electronic cigarettes. There have been an estimated 480,000 deaths annually caused by cigarette and second-hand smoke inhalation, as well as 500 probable vaping-related illnesses that have emerged this year, with the result of nine deaths, all according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). 

In fall 2017, the University, according to its website, implemented its “one hundred percent smoke-and-vape-free campus initiative.” The Smoke and Tobacco-Free Policy, which can be found on the school’s website, states that smoking or using any e-cigarette is prohibited on University property.

To aid the University in its efforts to create a smoke-free campus, the American Cancer Society (ACS) donated a grant of $20,000. This money helped USF brand its “Breathe Easy USF” campaign and hire two Smoke-Free Ambassadors. Natalie Macias, the associate director of Health Promotion Services (HPS), explained that ACS visited campus a few weeks ago and is planning to highlight USF’s commitment to being vaping-and-tobacco-free. 

The Smoke-Free Ambassadors are the newest addition to the University’s efforts to curb cigarette usage. Ambassadors help to educate those who want to quit smoking and offer them resources that may help them do so, such as one-on-one counseling sessions and nicotine gum. They also conduct once-a-month cigarette butt clean-ups around campus.


Ambassadors help to educate those who want to quit smoking and offer them resources that may help them do so, such as one-on-one counseling sessions and nicotine gum.


The ACS isn’t the only organization to support the University in its mission — “Surf-Rider Foundation,” a non-profit organization whose mission is to keep water clean by reducing the litter of cigarette butts, has created a community partnership with the University and provided it with its “Breathe Easy USF” ashtrays on street poles. 

Regarding the smoke-and-vape-free campus initiative, Macias explained how the University takes a more accommodating approach when carrying out the policy. 

“We don’t want public safety or the smoke-free ambassadors to be labeled as the ‘smoking police,’” she said. “We want to garner relationships with our community and make sure that we are building that awareness and education around what this policy is.” 

Junior and Smoke-Free Ambassador Natalie Ortez-Arevalo said that ambassadors undergo training that focuses on the importance of empathy when discussing the consequences of smoking. 

“We do not push the idea that students must stop smoking,” Ortez-Arevalo said. “Instead, we just plant a seed to make them think about whether or not they want to quit.” 

In addition to this empathetic approach, the consequences for a student getting caught smoking on campus involve no fine at all. Instead, ambassadors will counsel students and offer resources and information if they request it.

“We are here to support them in any aspect,” Macias said. “I mean, a lot of the time, students who are smoking — it’s stressors from school, family, and finances. So, it’s really all about understanding where this behavior is coming from.”

Kevin Dillon, patrol lieutenant of Public Safety, confirmed the empathetic approach Public Safety takes when managing smoking on campus. “They might say something to someone, but they don’t take formal action,” he said. “USF and the Jesuits are not really about punishment and discipline. It’s education and development.”


“USF and the Jesuits are not really about punishment and discipline. It’s education and development.”

Kevin Dillon

While there are smoke-free areas throughout campus, the exact boundaries of these areas are hazy. Macias said that while the sidewalks surrounding campus are technically public property, students will “often straddle that line.”

However, Macias said that advocacy is not only up to Public Safety and HPS — it requires a community effort. 

“You just don’t need an armed officer to be taking care of the smoking issue — that’s really not the right approach,” Dillon said.

Ultimately, according to Ortez-Arevalo, the USF Smoke and Tobacco Free Policy exists to ensure a healthy environment for the USF community as a whole. “I think that the policies are striving for something good, which is to strive for a healthier lifestyle for students on campus,” Ortez-Arevalo said.

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