Come Get Me

FAU’s new smoking policy may cause more harm than good


Photo by Mohammed F Emran | Web Editor

“I would not, I would not be inclined to obey this. I would not leave campus to smoke a fucking cigarette.”

Junior English major Sam Siegel, is a former cigarette smoker who now only smokes her e-cigarette. “With the e-cig I don’t have to smoke it, I can put it down for a week at a time and not touch it, you know? But it’s just something that I enjoy,” she said.

Florida Atlantic’s smoking ban, which took effect Jan. 1, prohibits students, staff, faculty and visitors from using any tobacco products, including e-cigarettes, while on campus.

University policy specifically states, “smoking and tobacco use are prohibited on, in or about all university property … This prohibition includes without limitation smoking and tobacco use in any vehicles while parked, stopped or traversing university property.”

If the policy is violated, the student or faculty member caught risks penalties up to expulsion from school or termination from his or her job. Despite the ban and its steep consequences, smoking continues to happen on campus.

Capture258In his video to the university about going tobacco free, FAU President John Kelly states the change is “an effort to create a healthier environment for all students, faculty, employees, vendors and visitors [at Florida Atlantic University],” but it may cause more trouble for its members who are trying to quit.

In a study published in the American Journal of Preventative Medicine conducted in the U.S., Europe, Canada and Australia, out of the 5,939 current and former smokers who responded, “75.4% stated that they used ENDS (Electronic Nicotine Delivery Systems) to help them reduce their smoking; and 85.1% reported using ENDS to help them quit smoking.”

“I think that’s a little harsh  … to be honest  …  I think that may be a little too much,” said current Student Body President Michael Cepeda on the inclusion of e-cigs and smokeless tobacco.

The logic behind including e-cigarettes in this policy, according to FAU’s “Tobacco Free Manual” is that “the FDA has the authority to regulate e-cigarettes as a tobacco product.” The answer goes on to cite a link from the University of Kentucky Clean Indoor Air Partnership that explains what an e-cigarette is.

Students aren’t buying the banning of e-cigarettes just for the sake of it.

Capture259Even non-smokers are speaking out against the ban. Sophomore Natalia Cereceda said, “I’m not a smoker myself, but I’m not in favor of the change. What someone chooses to do with their body should be a choice at everyone’s disposal. Secondhand smoke is not difficult to avoid anyway.”

Senior and Boca Student Government Senator Stefon Napier said, “the smell is so strong.  And it’s actually [a problem] for me because I have asthma. So, I mean, in some ways I suppose I like it, and in some ways I know and understand that [smoking’s] what people need.  This is a university, it is very stressful. Do I think there are healthy alternatives to smoking? Yes, but who am I to decide that?”

This begs the question: Did FAU ask the students and faculty if they were in favor of a smoking ban?

Cepeda said, “This [smoking ban] was something that was made before my time. I came in knowing about it, like ‘Hey by the way, January, new smoking policy,’ so I was like OK.’”

Former Student Body President Peter Amirato was contacted by two representatives from the American Lung Association who pitched the idea of becoming a tobacco-free campus in June 2013.

Capture23-2“It was a very serious pitch, too,” recalled Amirato, “they came with packets of information and pamphlets of their statistics and numbers … I told them, first of all, the only thing I would ever consider is smoke-free, but even then that’s not a decision for one person to make.”

Amirato proposed a compromise. His plan was to poll the students – the body of people who this decision would directly affect.

Capture260He said, “I wanted to have a large, well-organized poll and referendum so that if three, or four, or five years down the road … this is ever brought up, we can say ‘Hey … well the students spoke and we heard, so we’re not doing this,’ or ‘We are or we have done this because the students spoke.’”

Amirato’s demand for the poll required at least a one-in-three responce rate, then the decision would be what the majority of the voters wanted.

His removal from office due to academic reasons in January 2014 caused his work on the tobacco issue to come to a halt.  Amirato’s goal was to “wait until February to start the campaign, have it really pick up speed through March and … have the voting sometime in April.”

Patrick Callahan became student body president after Amirato and failed to reply to the University Press’ request for an interview.

Right around the time Amirato had planned on holding “the largest voter turnout that FAU has ever seen for a single topic” on the tobacco ban, a subcommittee was formed to discuss exactly that.

The Tobacco-Free Subcommittee has been together since late spring 2014 and is chaired by Donald Torok.One of the members of the subcommittee is Manager of Health Promotions for American Lung Association in Florida Matthew Competiello.

The committee drafted an implementation timeline, scheduled to take effect from May 2014 to April 2015.  A goal listed for January is to “provide an online reporting link to receive feedback from across the university.”

Member of the Tobacco-Free Subcommittee and Ways and Means Chair of the Boca House of Representatives Chris Ferreira said, “The consensus I got from the committee was that they basically wanted to figure out … where on campus people are breaking this policy.”

There is now a link to report someone breaking the policy that can be found on FAU’s Healthy Campus page under “Enforcement.”

It seems that  the FAU Police Department will not have a heavy hand in enforcing these new rules.

Capture5According to FAU’s Chief Press Officer Lisa Metcalf, “FAU Police cannot conduct traffic stops for smoking because it is not a violation of traffic law, so someone cannot be detained based on smoking.”

Instead, there will be tobacco-free ambassadors around campus to remind people to respect the policy and give them information about quitting.

If a situation dealing with a smoker gets out of hand, the ambassador is meant to report them to the designated supervisors according to FAU’s Healthy Campus page. Students will be reported to the dean of students, faculty and staff to their supervisor, visitors to FAU PD and vendors to Facilities Planning and Construction.

The University Press reached out to Media Relations with other inquiries, but was referred back to FAU’s new smoking policy regulation 4.1.7.

Anyone who would like more information about resources to help quit smoking should visit FAU’s Healthy Campus website.


Marcia Lawrence contributed to the reporting of this article.