Opinion: Student perspectives on ‘tobacco free’ UAF
Max Erickson / Sun Star
UAF’s tobacco-free policy came into effect Dec. 31, 2015, but two months later evidence of smoking can still be seen around campus. Judging from the cigarette butts littering the ground in front of the MBS, behind Bartlett, and in the pathways between buildings, the policy doesn’t seem to be working.
When the tobacco ban took effect and the cigarette receptacle bins went away, the result was not a total halt in smoking as intended. While some smokers moved off campus, the remaining smokers are left to discard their butts onto the ground.
“There’s… been a decrease in smoking especially in like the main public areas, but I’ve definitely seen cigarette butts lying around and smokers in more secluded areas,” student Bryant Klug said. “It’s gross, there is all this trash everywhere and it doesn’t look that nice.”
A fellow student, Serena McCormick, said she would rather have the tobacco bins on campus than see the ground covered in tobacco products.
Perhaps in the future the tobacco ban could allow for proper receptacles on campus, so people who do not listen to the policy have a location to discard their cigarettes other than the ground.
“Smoking isn’t illegal and because it has always been a thing on campus it is difficult to take it away,” student Kelly Wilson said. “The ban really shouldn’t even be a thing… I mean people aren’t going to stop simply because a ban is placed.”
“There just isn’t a real pressure to stop,” said student Rebecca Balasek. “Of course if someone tell them to stop they will, but otherwise people don’t feel a sense of worry about getting caught.”
Balasek said she has several friends who smoke on campus.
In terms of enforcement the policy relies on the public to act as enforcers and politely ask those who smoke to stop. But of the students interviewed for this piece, only one said they would approach an individual and ask them to stop, but only if they were smoking in a public or crowded place. If the smoker was in a secluded area, nobody interviewed said they would intervene.
This response appears to be the mentality of many, as the smoking population simply moves to more secluded areas with fewer chances of confrontation. Even if the smoking itself has become less public the cigarette waste is still an issue that must be dealt with. Without enforcement of the policy, there really is no change to the campus except that there is now more waste lying on the ground.
The tobacco-free policy was written with the expectation that everyone on campus would listen and follow the rules, which doesn’t represent realistic thinking on the part of the administration—a percentage of the population can always be counted on to ignore the rules. The only thing going “tobacco-free” has accomplished has been to take away the receptacles for these individuals to discard their waste.
Without a change in policy, cigarettes will continue to accumulate, parking lots will increasingly fill with tobacco waste, and our campus will slowly degrade into a trashier state.
The tobacco ban must be reconsidered and reevaluated, to try and account for the non-compliant population. Nobody wants to live and work on a trashed campus; our administration should revisit the tobacco ban before we’re forced to do exactly that.