Florida Atlantic University's first student-run news source.


Florida Atlantic University's first student-run news source.


Florida Atlantic University's first student-run news source.


Up in smoke

On a balmy September evening, junior Shazad Beharry and a friend slouch over a table outside a dorm. In front of them sit his pack of cigarettes and a hookah, a water pipe for tobacco.

Beharry, a double major, smokes from a hookah with friends to take his mind off of school. He smokes cigarettes to relax.
“That’s one of the main reasons I smoke: the stress from school,” he said.

But some school officials want to make his smoke breaks more inconvenient.

FAU’s Wellness Task Force, 15 staff and faculty members who work on initiatives to improve students’ well-being, expects to present administrators with a new smoking policy soon. The group hopes to ban smokers from smoking within approximately 100 feet — about six car lengths — of buildings on the Boca campus.

In other words, smokers like Beharry would be relegated to designated smoking areas so that clouds of secondhand smoke could not hang about doorways and heavily trafficked areas like the Breezeway.
“If you’re choosing to smoke, that is your choice and your decision, but you don’t have to let those side effects harm anybody else. That’s all we’re asking,” said Rosemary Dunbar, chair of the Wellness Task Force.

Despite the inconvenience the policy may cause smokers, the majority of students appear in favor of it. According to the results of polls taken during the spring 2009 Student Government elections, 76.3 percent of students support limiting smoking to designated areas, and 64.9 percent even support making FAU a smoke-free university.

The Wellness Task Force pursued a limited-smoking initiative due largely in part to these results.
“We started working on it right after we found out that the students were supporting this,” said Dunbar. “We thought we would have more resistance from the students, and in fact the students … want it.”

The task force was also encouraged by the success of similar policies on other FAU campuses.
“It’s definitely cleared up the main entranceways. You don’t always have to walk through a cloud of smoke anymore,” said Jupiter Student Body Governor Jordy Yarnell of the designated smoking areas on his campus.

The Davie campus also directs smokers to designated areas in order to create Breathe Easy zones for non-smokers, said Phyllis Bebko, assistant vice president for operations on the Broward campuses.

On both the Jupiter and the Davie campuses, the limited-smoking policies seem to have been accepted well. Bebko reports having heard no complaints from students or staff, while Yarnell reports that smokers on the Jupiter campus accepted the limited-smoking policy over time.
“At first it was a hassle for everybody, but now everybody just adapted to it,” explained Yarnell.

One hassle of some designated smoking areas on these campuses remains, however — and may delay the approval of a limited-smoking policy on the Boca campus.
“I know that there is some concern on the administration’s part about some of the areas that were selected,” said Physical Plant Director John Singer of possible designated smoking areas on the Boca campus. “I don’t think too many of the areas were covered. So, what do you do in inclement weather?”

In Davie, all five smoking areas has seating, tables and even Wi-Fi access, but only three offer smokers protection from the sun or rain.

While the Port St. Lucie campus has few smokers, none of the designated smoking areas has shelter, according to Beverly Sargent, director of operations for the Jupiter campus.

When it rains, smokers must wait it out, Sargent explained.

Despite some smoking areas lacking shelter, students and employees are expected to comply with limited-smoking areas without enforcement.
“We can’t ask the campus police to enforce it. We can’t ask for some punitive thing to be designed. We didn’t want that. But we felt that if we had enough students and staff that were supporting it that people would comply,” said Dunbar.

On the Davie campus, officials promote respect as a means of ensuring compliance.
“We don’t want the smokers to be adversely affected, so we’re trying to be respectful of that,” said Phyllis Bebko. “And the way we did that was by trying to identify … [smoking areas] with the potential to eat your lunch or do your work or whatever you would normally do. Our goal is not to restrict people: Our goal is to encourage compliance.”

The Wellness Task Force also intends to furnish proposed smoking areas with tables and seating at the least. Still, not everyone on the Boca campus believes that a respectful peer-enforced policy would work on FAU’s largest campus.

Freshman James Mitchell, a non-smoker, stated that he would be against a limited-smoking policy due to the inconvenience it would cause smokers. He doubts respect could offset that inconvenience.
“I see a lot of rules being broken,” the business major explained.

And Mitchell could be right: His prediction for the Boca campus was once a reality in Jupiter.
“Police enforcement had been going on for smoking in front of entranceways and doorways across campus,” Jordy Yarnell said. “It was enforced a lot more last year.”
Despite the obstacles before a limited-smoking policy on the Boca campus, Rosemary Dunbar remains hopeful that FAU will compete with traditional universities that already have limited-smoking policies or even smoke-free or tobacco-free policies.

The University of Florida, for example, has announced that by the summer of 2010 its entire campus will be tobacco-free, meaning that all forms of tobacco will be banned.
“We’re looking to do a little bit more than what the state mandates — and other schools are looking to do even more,” said Dunbar.


Hoo knew?
Hookah vs. cigarette

Smoking tobacco through a hookah, a type of water pipe, is more harmful than smoking cigarettes, according to Rosemary Dunbar, director of Today & Beyond Wellness on the Boca campus.
“People are going to hookah bars thinking that it’s benign, and in fact it’s much worse than smoking. … The way that it’s inhaled, it’s burned, you’re actually getting the carcinogens at a faster rate,” said Dunbar.


No ifs, ands or butts
FAU offers several options to assist smokers who are ready to quit

Here’s whom to contact for more information about how FAU can help smokers kick the habit:

Boca campus:
Today & Beyond Wellness
(561) 297-1048

Davie campus:
Student Health Services
(954) 236-1556

Jupiter campus:
Counseling Center
(561) 799-8621

[Sources: Rosemary Dunbar, director of Today & Beyond Wellness; Phyllis Bebko, assistant vice president for Broward operations; Phil Cromer, assistant director for Jupiter counseling services]

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