Letter to the editor: UB’s smoke-free policy

In 1994, UB put into place a smoke-free campus policy. This is well before I came to the University, however, in my three years at the school I cannot think of a time that I have seen this policy enforced. I have lived in the dorms, the on-campus apartments, and now off campus, I have had classes on North and South campus, in Ellicott, the spine, and at nearly all of these places, I can point out cigarette butts and the places smokers go to smoke.

And this isn’t just students. Even worse, I have seen faculty and staff smoking outside buildings sending the message to their students that the smoke-free policy is optional. These issues raise the question, who should be enforcing this policy? Can students be expected to approach faculty, perhaps professors they have, and ask them not to smoke? Can they be expected to approach their peers that they may live near and have to interact with on a daily basis? Should the police on campus be writing citations? In the policy it mentions that students who smoke will be referred to the Office of Judicial Affairs and Student Advocacy, but it does not mention who is referring them.

The purpose of enforcement and smoke-free policies is not to shun or shame smokers, but to offer them the support and opportunities to quit, while maintaining a healthy environment for the campus community as a whole. In the United States, nearly three-fourths of smokers want to quit, but for various reasons cannot maintain quitting or do not try. By having a smoke-free policy that is enforced, and enforced in a way that is supportive of quitting, more people who smoke can make quit attempts that are more likely to be successful in the long term.

The University needs to address the issue of tobacco usage on campus in a truly meaningful way; it needs to develop procedures to actively refer individuals to support to quit smoking because what is in place now is a facade of a policy at best.

Thomas Forrester

MPH Student, Epidemiology

Smoking Cessation Associate, Roswell Park Cancer Institute