Policy Recommendations on Smoking Ban

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Filed with the Committee for a Smoke Free Campus

Recommendations for a Better Smoke Free Policy at UCF

Richard A. Ries, Graduate Studies

24 February 2013

            UCF made a reasoned, noble, important decision last year to make the nation’s second largest campus smoke free and join a list of over 500 campuses nationwide that have gone smoke free. The campaign, “Catch Your Breath UCF,” has been well communicated through signs and e-mail reminders.  Smoke cessation programs are available on campus, though their attendance might be low.

Despite its good intentions, the policy has failed, and may have even created a backlash of “protest” smokers. The ban can only be said to be flouted. The bulk of the UCF citizenry – students, faculty and staff – are nonsmokers. But a sizeable minority of students continues to smoke, and flout the policy on a daily basis, particularly in key areas such as in front of the library and near other buildings that had former “smoke zones.” People continue to light up socially, and while walking across lawns in between classes or on the way to parking garages. This population includes first time smokers, tobacco addicts, students smoking to exercise what they consider to be civil disobedience or simple coolness, and an array of international students who come from nations and cultures where smoking is far more widespread, and bans are not in place. The idealism that goes into the ban – that fellow students will gently ask smokers to refrain from lighting up – does not exist in the real world of social awkwardness, fear of “narcing” on a student, and a general belief that one has a “right” to smoke outdoors, on campus or not. To date, while I have seen a number of smoking infractions, I have never seen anyone kindly ask someone else to extinguish their cigarette.

The policy needs improvement, and it needs to become part of the Honor Code. The smoke free policy first of all needs star power endorsement. The ban is probably associated first with President Hitt (as if he personally imposed the policy by fiat) and second with simply a “faceless bureaucracy” that large campuses like UCF become known for. Both of these ingrained concepts might render smoking – particularly for the rebellious or cool smoker – even more desirable. A good campaign needs some stars to donate their services as they do for the American Library Association’s reading campaign (posters of David Bowie reading) or American Dairy Farmers (a diverse body of celebrities with milk mustaches). We need Shaq involved, and for our media offices to contact other stars like Miss Florida to see if they will lend their name to posters or videos. Celebrity sells. It would be helpful if both U.S. senators taped a message too. Senator Rubio has a good sense of humor and might even be persuaded to spoof his own water sip moment following the last State of the Union Address.

The second step the university must take is to make a lengthy and serious student video about the policy – akin to the sexual harassment videos – and make sure students verify that they have seen the video by taking and passing an online test before their WebCourse accounts can be activated. After passing the test about the policy, UCF should require all students, each semester on MyUCF, to sign an electronic agreement with an electronic signature:

“I understand that the University of Central Florida is a smoke free environment. By signing my name, I agree that I shall personally abide by the campus policy.  At no time shall I smoke any products while on the premises, nor shall I aid or abet others in smoking. I understand that the smoking policy is an integral part of the UCF drug policy, Honor Code and Code of Ethics. I understand that smoking on campus violates the Honor Code, and that violations of the policy may come with consequences, including, but not limited to, financial fines and loss of campus privileges.”

The second step, of course, will be to enforce the policy, and that will require at least a few patrols (perhaps volunteers) to police the campus, particularly in areas where the policy is frequently flaunted, such as right in front of the Hitt Library. While enforcement of the policy may only need to be in play for a limited time – say for a three year trial period (and will be subject to derision) the policy as it stands is equally subject to derision.

The offender’s name needs to be taken on an official ticket, and he or she must be sent a fine or can pay on the spot with a credit card or UCF ID. Unpaid fines after 30 days should result in freezes on library cards and releases of transcripts – and it should be communicated that smoking fine violations will become part of a student’s permanent record that go to perspective employers and other academic institutions. The first infraction should be $25, the second a heftier $50, and a third violation within an academic year should generate 20 hours of community service and an appearance before a joint student and faculty committee.

A student led smoke police squad – perhaps with a catchy name like Knights Against Lights – would be trained to first politely ask the offender to put out their cigarette, and only after a refusal issue the ticket. At no time should an incident result in a serious confrontation; if smokers adamantly refuse to comply, they should at the very least be reminded that they have put their name to an Honor Code. Students who sign up to donate time to Knights Against Lights could receive incentives.

Signing one’s name to an agreement is a powerful psychology and invaluable life lesson about ethics and the sense of self. Most rational people – including young people – take their signature very seriously. The reliance on voluntary adherence to the policy, without consequences or personal involvement via an electronic signature, will not come to implementation in the foreseeable future. Though no policy can be full proof, the electronic signature may greatly improve the chances of success for a smoking ban that has proven to neither work nor be enforced. The other recommendations for the ban will hopefully help the campus make the policy work better next academic year.

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