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Campus Has Been Tobacco Free For 10 Months — Sort Of

Almost a year since FAU became 100% cigarette and e-cigarette free, students and professors are still sneaking their fix.

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Illustration by Ivan Benavides | Creative Director

Illustration by Ivan Benavides | Creative Director

Illustration by Ivan Benavides | Creative Director

Emily Bloch, Editor-in-Chief

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Collon Paul-Hus, freshman, undeclared major, smoking a cigar. Brandon Harrington | Photo ditor

Collon Paul-Hus, freshman, undeclared major, smoking a cigar. Brandon Harrington | Photo ditor

A large navy blue banner hangs from the second floor of the Breezeway railing. “Tobacco Free University,” is written on it in bold letters. “No tobacco or e-cigarettes are allowed anywhere on campus.”

About 30 feet away from the banner, a professor sits on a bench alone. He takes a drag of his cigarette and then lowers his arms back toward his lap, discretely cusping his hands over the evidence.

“It’s bullshit,” the professor — who opted to stay anonymous — says. “I think it has something to do with higher education’s imposition on personal choices. Teachable moments are about choice. Not some kind of mandate.”

But on Jan. 1 of this year, a mandate is exactly what happened. FAU became the 24th smoke-free campus in Florida. The tobacco-free policy encompasses cigarettes, e-cigarettes, cigars, pipes and all types of smokeless tobacco, and restricts anyone from smoking anywhere on campus, including their cars.

Ten months since the implementation, not everyone is on board.

The professor puts his lighter back into the front pocket of his jeans and prepares to get rid of the evidence — throwing the cigarette butt away in a nearby trash bin. He started smoking six years ago while attending graduate school.

The tobacco-free policy is part of a five-year plan that is slowly phasing out on-campus smoking. Don Torok, the associate dean of the college of education and co-chair of FAU’s Substance Abuse Committee, says that now that the policy has been in effect for two complete semesters, the school is starting to take names.

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“Smoking and tobacco use is not a protected right,” Torok says. “Because when individuals say that, one of the things that they fail to recognize is that secondhand and thirdhand smoke affect other individuals.”

“Up until this point we’ve just been issuing notices of violation,” Torok says.

The policy enforcers are FAU’s Tobacco Free Ambassador program, comprised of students, faculty and staff members who interact with individuals that are violating the policy, according to the program’s web page. Torok says that well over 50 individuals have signed up for the program.

On first offense, the individual will be issued a warning and their name will be recorded, according to the policy. If caught a second time, they’ll have to attend a smoking cessation class.

The third strike will involve appearing before the dean of students—or, if a faculty or staff member, before their supervisors—which could result in disciplinary action not limited to termination or expulsion, according to University Policy 4.1.7.

“I’d say we’re making progress,” Torok notes. “The compliance for the most part has been very good, but to say we have excellent compliance would not be accurate because we still have individuals who are smoking on campus.”

In 2010, the school implemented designated smoking areas. Just outside the back entrance to the Student Union, right in front of the window facing the ping pong tables, is a former “smoking area.” The sign may be gone but as of publication time, 11 cigarette butts were found littered beneath the concrete tables and benches.

“It’s still a little alarming when students say ‘I didn’t know,’” Torok says. “Especially when you see that they try to cover [their cigarette] or if you look at where individuals are smoking, they’re doing it where they’re trying to hide.”

Kendyl Andrews, a sophomore marketing major, hates cigarette smoke because of her asthma. “Every time I see someone smoking, I remind them we’re a tobacco free campus,” she says. “And while most people just roll their eyes, a few have put their [cigarettes] out. Mostly out of shock that someone actually called them out I think.” She says she stops someone at least once a week.

According to Torok, “approximately 10 percent of the population has a respiratory condition. Tobacco usage is a trigger for those who have asthma and other respiratory conditions. Their behavior definitely puts other individuals in harm’s way.”

Andrews says that when people smoke around her, she can’t stop coughing. “I don’t think it’s fair to put someone else’s health at risk.”

Torok, however, doesn’t expect everyone to go cold turkey. “We’re not telling people that they have to stop smoking,” Torok says. We’re just saying while they’re on campus, they can’t do it. If they want to do it when they’re at home, that’s their choice. But it increases health care cost, reduces lifespan and there’s no healthy benefits to the behavior.”

Manager of Health Promotions for the American Lung Association Matt Competiello told the UP in an email, “there is no safe level of exposure to secondhand smoke. Regardless if the person is breathing in heaps of tobacco odor inside a classroom or is mildly exposed to it while walking along a breezeway.”

Noah White, a sophomore business major and admitted smoker, isn’t worried about the policy’s upcoming enforcement since he lives off campus. “It’s not really an issue for me,” he says. White admits to having smoked cigarettes at FAU since the ban and supports designated smoking areas on campus.

Twitter user @jerrymadnick tweeted “FAU is tobacco free!!! It’s about time they start enforcing it!” White replied “nark” three minutes later.

“If FAU as an organization feels the prevention of cancer and other harmful diseases is more important than giving their students the same liberties that they will have in the real world, then there’s nothing to really be done,” White says. “We choose to be a part of their community.”

Other colleges in Florida that are 100 percent tobacco free include FIU, FSU, UCF, USF and more. Torok says: “For the large number of individuals just starting at the university, removing the exposure to tobacco greatly decreases the number of students who engage in the use of tobacco product and they don’t become addicted.”

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