Students were split on a push from faculty and staff groups to ban smoking on campus at the “Smoke-Free Campus Forum” hosted by the Undergraduate Student Government in Taper Hall of Humanities on Wednesday night.
The forum, attended by about 40 students, was intended to gauge student body support for the initiative before USG takes an official position by passing a senate resolution on the subject in the next few weeks. Students were urged to pose questions and voice their opinions in a town hall format to a four-person panel of university employees involved in the initiative.
“At this point, our stance is to discuss the issue more and gauge what students want to see before we, as representatives, can make any informed decision,” USG President Monish Tyagi said.
The panel was comprised of key university representatives involved with the initiative, including Patricia Riley, academic vice-president of the USC Academic Senate; Paula Swinford, director of Health Promotion and Prevention Services and John Gaspari, executive director of the Center for Work and Family Life.
Jared Ginsburg, USG director of campus affairs, began the forum by presenting the preliminary results from an ongoing online survey. Survey takers were able to support multiple options about limiting smoking on campus. Forty-five percent of the 1,227 respondents favored a categorical ban on smoking and 40 percent favored establishing designated smoking areas. Of the 1,227 survey respondents, 67 percent reported they never smoke. The survey will remain open for about two more weeks and can be accessed through USG’s website.
Most attendees favored a compromise, such as establishing designated smoking areas rather than a ban. Some students, however, were in favor of banning smoking altogether.
“If we take away the right to smoke it will lead to a healthier lifestyle and a better environment for everyone to be in,” said Niki Noe, a freshman majoring in biochemistry.
The administration has not yet made a decision on the issue, said panelist and Associate Vice President of Student Affairs Denzil Suite. He also said if the ban were to be put in place, there are no current plans to enforce it with citations or fines.
“Our approach would be more educational and informing people where they can and cannot smoke on campus,” Suite said.
The USG Senate will pass a resolution in which it will take an official position in support of or opposition to adopting a smoke-free campus policy once the survey has at least 2,000 responses, Ginsburg said.
“We have to wrestle between students who feel that it is their individual right to smoke on campus and in the open air and those who feel that it is an infringement on their right, in the sense that the air that they are breathing is being obstructed by second-hand smoke of passers by,” Ginsburg said.
After attending the event, some students said they felt less inclined to support a ban on smoking after hearing the side of student smokers.
“At first, going in, I was thinking they should ban smoking altogether,” said Yumeng Wei, a junior majoring in business administration. “But people brought up some really good points about it being their right to smoke and that they [are] already limited as to where they can smoke.”
The USC Academic Senate and the USC Staff Assembly, the respective representative bodies of faculty and staff, passed resolutions telling USC administration their constituents would support a smoke-free campus in 2010.
As of July 2011, at least 530 colleges have adopted 100 percent smoke-free campus policies, according to the American Nonsmokers’ Rights Foundation. Current USC smoking policy dates back to 1993 and mostly pertains to smoking in buildings. Last October, the USC Health Sciences campus enacted a smoke-free policy. The Graduate and Professional Student Senate is also working on passing a resolution.