Survey suggests smoking ban ineffective

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Sixteen out of 17 smokers who responded to a survey violate the smoking ban. Among them, only 5 had ever been confronted for smoking in the open. Infographic by Josh Hartman. Photo credit: Josh Hartman

A recent study suggests that the university’s smoking ban has prompted few smokers to change their habits.

The study was devised by Kelvin Rogers, a communications major, who said he had the idea after a friend complained about the smoking ban “not doing anything.” Rogers designed a survey asking students about the ban and how it has affected them. He surveyed 100 students—17 of whom were smokers.

Community enforcement

The ban is community enforced, meaning there’s no official or administrative penalty for smokers. Instead, students, staff and faculty are expected to confront smokers who violate the ban. The UAF page, Tobacco Free Campus, states that people can tell violators about the policy.

Of the 17 smokers who responded, 95 percent violate the ban and nearly two-thirds of them don’t try to hide it when they do. Of the smokers, only five said they had ever been confronted for smoking and only one confrontation was initiated by a student.

“The ban was hoping to be community enforced,” Rogers said,”but that’s clearly not happened.”

The smokers

“The ban, if that is true, isn’t making smokers any healthier—although it may be helping secondhand smoke exposure a bit,” Rogers said. “Less than 20 percent of campus smokers report wanting to quit … none of those people reported the ban as part of the reason they wanted to quit.”

Rogers found that of the smoker’s 90 percent of them stated that stress was a cause of their smoking. About half said that they smoke because of boredom or as a focus aid.

Of the smokers, 90 percent of them feel as if they are not smoking any less because of the ban.

One of the answers that Rogers was concerned he might find was that the ban may have impacted smokers academic performance since they may want to spend less time on campus or may have more difficulty focusing.

“That seemed to, thankfully, not be the case,” Rogers said. “None of our smokers said that they reported a decrease in grades or that they felt it was hard to focus in class.”

The majority of the smokers, 85 percent, feel as if they have no choice but to violate the ban, as well as that the ban “fails to recognize the complexities of tobacco addiction.”

Zach Chaves, a petroleum engineering student, said he smokes cigarettes openly on campus. He usually waits until after 4 p.m. although he will still smoke once or twice during the day. He has been confronted twice by students who told him in passing that there was indeed a no-smoking policy.

“The majority of [non-smokers], 60 percent, find that the ban has improved campus,” Rogers said. “However half of the students do still frequently encounter smoke while walking around.”

A smoking area on campus

There is no designated smoking area on campus, yet 10 percent of nonsmokers who responded believe that one exists. Fifty-four percent of non-smokers would support a designated smoking area.

“I think there should definitely be a smoking area,” Rogers said. “People who are smoking feel like there is no choice but for them to break the ban.”

This would reduce the the number of times that non-smokers would encounter smoke on campus, especially if there is a warm place on campus for smokers to go since it is not easy to walk off campus to smoke in the winter, according to Rogers.

Although, a smoking area may be less than satisfactory for some students.

“It’s a public university, I should have every smoking right I do walking down the street,” Chaves said with a laugh. “If they wanted to incentivize me, if they wanted to pay me not to smoke, I would be okay with that.”

“Tobacco-Free Campus”

UAF’s smoking ban coincides with the popularity of similar bans around the U.S. Between Oct. 2010 and April 2017, the number of so-called “smoke free” campuses rose from 446 to 1,827, according to Americans for Nonsmoker’s Rights.

The webpage offers links to the health and counseling center and to Alaska’s Tobacco Quit Line to help people quit smoking.

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