Professor and students present cigarette collection data to Faculty Senate Executive Committee

Senate Chair Philip Glick supports iniative

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For the last 30 minutes of Wednesday’s Faculty Senate Executive Committee meeting, professor Jessica Kruger and seven of her students presented data on the 1,400 littered cigarette butts they collected across North and South Campus. 

Over the course of a week earlier this month, Kruger’s students collected the littered butts and logged where on campus they picked them up. Using 3-D renderings and heat maps, Kruger’s students wowed the senate with their findings. 

Some of the hotspots on North Campus were Capen Hall, the Ellicott Complex, O’Brien Hall and the academic spine. Another hotspot also includes South Campus’ Main Circle. 

After the presentation, senate members asked questions ranging from the environmental impacts of littered butts, to whether or not the school can advertise itself as a smoke-free campus to prospective students during tours. Many suggested collaborations with their departments and possible discussions with the city of Buffalo and SUNY to help enforce the policy. 

Kruger and her students said the research indicates a lack of enforcement of UB’s no-smoking policy, and a culture of apathy from university administrators and police toward the policy. If you walk anywhere on campus, it’s easy to spot the numerous students, faculty and staff who frequently smoke outside university buildings. 

President Satish Tripathi was supposed to attend the meeting but was not there. Kruger plans on bringing her jars of cigarette butts to his office before the end of the semester to discuss how the university can better enforce its no-smoking policy. 

Senate Chair Philip Glick applauded Kruger and her students and said he would support them in any way possible. Glick is currently working with SUNY Chancellor Kristina Johnson to pass legislation making all 64 SUNY institutions smoke-free. 

“Eighty-five percent of faculty, staff and students believe they have a right to breathe free air at UB and we will continue to support you doing whatever we can to make that happen,” Glick said. “This is partly a union problem, but it’s felt by our police department and administration that without a statute they can’t enforce the tobacco-free policy.” 

Kruger said one of the areas she’s looking to expand her research toward is the environmental impact of littering butts on campus. She said with Lake LaSalle and South Lake on campus, littered butts are most likely polluting our water and negatively impacting campus’ wildlife and ecosystems. 

“We do know that cigarette butts are getting into our water ways and in the sheer number it is the largest amount of litter that’s going into our water, oceans, environment. Not size wise, but in terms of quantity,” Kruger said. “I think we really do need to do something about this.”

Michael Chaskes, assistant professor and vice chair of business operations medicine, runs the smoking cessation program at the Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences, teaching medical students how to help people quit smoking. 

He offered to pair some of his students with Kruger’s to help students on campus stop smoking. Glick however, said it’s not his job to make members of the UB community stop smoking.

“We don’t want anyone to stop smoking, because it’s not our right to tell anyone what to do,” Glick said. “What we do want, however, is the right to breathe clean, free air. They need to use smoking cessation tactics on campus, but if they want to go home and smoke their brains out, that’s fine.”

Kruger’s students provided anecdotes from their own cigarette butt collection, and what it means to them that the smoke-free policy isn’t enforced on any of UB’s campuses. 

Senior exercise science major Anthony Bruma said, as an RA, it disappoints him to see students smoking on campus. He said if the school advertises itself as smoke-free, it should live up to those standards. 

Bruma was appreciative of the Senate’s support and looks forward to continuing his and Kruger’s efforts to raise awareness of UB’s smoke-free policy. 

“[The senate] seemed very receptive when we were presenting and based on the amount of questions and feedback we were given that they were very interested in what we had to present today,” Bruma said. “This is a comprehensive topic. It’s not as though one department or facility could solve this issue, it’s a university-wide effort that needs to be made.”

Other students provided more personal stories to senators. 

Sophomore public health major Joseph Marte collected 68 cigarette butts on the terrace between Red Jacket Quadrangle and Porter Quadrangle in less than five minutes. 

Marte said when he walks across campus, he often finds himself walking through clouds of smoke before he enters buildings. He worries about people with asthma, like himself, and places on campus like the Child Care Center outside Baldy Hall where kids are outside breathing in the smoke-filled air. 

“When I walk into different buildings, there’ll be people outside smoking cigarettes or vapes, and I literally have to hold my breath and run into the building because I’m asthmatic,” Marte said. “I’ve seen people speak up and tell them to stop smoking, but the smokers just laugh at them and keep going.” 

Marte said there was no shortage of littered butts to collect, and that outside the dorms, there are piles of butts next to doors where people stop for a quick smoke break. 

“All of the butts I collected were fresh, it’s not like they’ve been sitting there for weeks,” Marte said. “I think students have a problem smoking on campus. I was surprised with how many butts I found in five minutes. When I started to look I thought it might take me at least ten minutes to find four or five, but I found a whole pile right away.” 

Kruger said the environmental sustainability group will do another cigarette butt cleanup later this semester. She added that she will continue to carry out her class’ cigarette butt collection every semester to track changes over time and plans on working with other departments to help raise awareness.

Max Kalnitz is the senior news editor and can be reached at Max.Kalnitz@ubspectrum.com and on Twitter @Max_Kalnitz