The Gustavian Weekly

Tobacco-Free Initiative rekindles old debate

By Sophie Panetti Staff Writer | October 4, 2013 | News

Gustavus Tobacco Free Initiative member McCartney Renn tables outside the Caf in order to advocate for a tobacco-free campus. Submitted

Gustavus Tobacco Free Initiative member McCartney Renn tables outside the Caf in order to advocate for a tobacco-free campus. Submitted

There’s a growing trend on college campuses to completely ban smoking and tobacco use. The Gustavus Tobacco Free Initiative stems from this nationwide movement and advocates for a tobacco-free campus. The student-led group is partnering with the American Lung Association to support a campus wide tobacco ban.

Junior Jack Healy, an intern for the American Lung Association, describes the intentions of the Gustavus Tobacco Free Initiative.

“The tobacco-free initiative is a student-led project that also consists of faculty and staff and is in partnership with the American Lung Association. We are genuinely interested in promoting the health and wellbeing of the Gustavus community. We believe that this is the right time for Gustavus to join the other 52 college campuses in Minnesota who are either smoke-free or tobacco-free,” Healy said.

According to Sophomore Griffin Reed, a member of the Gustavus Tobacco Free Initiative, this includes banning all tobacco products from the Gustavus campus, and supporting those who are trying to quit smoking.

Beginning their work in January of 2013, the Gustavus Tobacco Free Initiative has partnered with Health Services and the Counseling Center to provide free services for tobacco cessation, the process of discontinuing tobacco use. The group recently tabled outside the Evelyn Young Dining Room, where they encouraged students to sign a petition supporting a tobacco-free campus.

There have been many previous efforts to enforce a smoking ban on campus. In 2011, a Facebook group titled, “Support a Tobacco Free Campus at GAC,” started advertising their cause on social media. They posted links to articles and videos that stated the risks of smoking. Several responses to this page showed up on the Gustavus blog, the majority of which opposed the ban.

The Gustavus Tobacco Free Initiative is eager to spread the word to Gustavus students by way of social media and campus activity. So far, they have had support from students who are allergic to smoke, do not want to deal with health risks, or want to eliminate tobacco related litter.

However, they have met some opposition from students who argue that tobacco users have a right to smoke on campus.

In the case of a ban, tobacco users would have to leave campus in order to use tobacco products. This would be difficult to do between classes or if students have visiting family members that smoke.

“My brother smokes. I don’t want him to have to leave [campus] in order to smoke,” First-Year Kristine Rogers said.

“We recognize that people on campus who smoke may not want to quit smoking, and we respect that choice. However, for on-campus smokers who are ready to quit, we feel that it is important to highlight the cessation services that are available through both campus resources and through the state of Minnesota,” Healy said.

There is not a large percentage of smokers on campus so some consider it a non-issue.

“I’m not a smoker … but closing our campus to it completely would have very minimal effects on the air, especially at Gustavus, where there are very few smokers anyway,” Sophomore Jeff Nelson said.

Students on the opposing side of this issue argue that there would be less tobacco litter, and that the insurance rates for the college would go down. Some who support this ban see it as an incentive to quit if they’re unable to smoke anywhere on campus unless they leave.

“It’s their decision [to smoke], but we get the side effects involuntarily. We shouldn’t have to deal with that,” First-Year Rachel Hain said.

The elimination of odors and health risks is a major factor for those considering the ban.

“The dangers of smoking and second-hand smoke are more than well known. The students at GAC deserve safety,”  First-Year Mark Meier said.

It’s not just students that are concerned about this issue either. One of Gustavus’ very own professors, Dr. O’Connor, published an article in Psychology Today titled “Lighting Up an Old Argument About Smoking.”  In her article, she discussed the morals surrounding smoking and addiction.

“We feel that this is the right thing for Gustavus not only because of the health benefits of going tobacco-free, but because this policy would boost environmental advocacy, increase operational efficiency of the college, and reduce the insurance costs Gustavus pays,” Healy said.

The goal for the Gustavus Tobacco Free Initiative is a smoke and tobacco free campus. This group is striving for an increased level of awareness among students as a healthier student body, lowered insurance rates, and support for smokers looking to quit.

It remains unforeseen as to whether or not the initiative will have the backing of the student body, not to mention faculty.

Last year Student Senate decided it could not support a campus-wide tobacco ban because there was insufficient evidence of support within the community, based on student and faculty survey data from fall 2011.

Of the 1403 respondents to the 2011 tobacco survey, approximately 53 percent were in favor of a ban, 27 percent were opposed, and 20 percent were indifferent.