Change is in the air at the University of South Florida where a new policy that began March 20 banned smoking across the majority of the Tampa campus.
USF complies with the Florida Indoor Clean Air Act, which prohibits smoking indoors at workplaces and educational facilities. The new Limited Tobacco Use Policy will further prohibit smoking at USF, making outdoor areas, including walkways, parking lots and athletic facilities, smoke-free, with the exception of a limited number of designated areas.
“We are committed to the health and well-being of our students, faculty and visitors,” said Beverly Douglas, special assistant to the vice president of Administrative Services. “This policy will make our campus safer by reducing the dangers of tobacco and secondhand smoke.”
Douglas championed the anti-smoking initiative that began last year when USF formed a tobacco task force to explore the campus going smoke-free. It found that 79 percent of USF students were in favor of some form of tobacco restriction on campus. A 2010 study also concluded that only four percent of USF students smoke every day. Those students will now have to seek out one of the 25 new designated smoking areas and will no longer be permitted to smoke while walking to and from class.
“How can they police the air,” asked Daniel Endonino, a smoker who regularly visits the USF Campus to see friends. “I don’t think its right. If you don’t want to inhale my smoke then don’t stand near me.”
Douglas said that the policy will be a culture change for many, but noted that backlash regarding the policy has been less fierce than she expected. She hopes the new policy will protect USF students and faculty against the dangers of secondhand smoke, one of the leading causes of lung cancer, while also preparing students for careers in a world where many businesses are tobacco free.
“Campus-wide smoke-free environments support students in their development of healthy lifestyles and send a clear message about the dangers of smoking and of secondhand smoke,” said Tobacco Free Florida spokeswoman Christie Gross in a e-mailed statement Friday. Tobacco Free Florida estimates that 648 campuses nationwide and 15 in Florida are smoke-free.
Policing of the ban will be limited to community enforcement.
“My suggestion is to give everyone the benefit of the doubt and politely inform smokers where the designated areas are,” said Douglas, adding that community enforcement has been successful at other universities. Smokers who refuse to cooperate should be reported to the Office of Student Rights and Responsibilities or their supervisor, she said.