Clearing the smoke

Campus policy doesn't deter smokers

It all started when...

COLUMBIA – Smoke often wafts around Brady Fountain, as gaggles of students sit on the concrete wall smoking cigarettes. Tobacco products have been banned on campus since July of 2013, however, the policy is unenforced by university officials. 

 Many smokers, such as MU student Annalise Hummel who often smokes at Brady Fountain, have never been asked to stop.

“I’m absolutely aware of the policy, but it doesn’t stop me,” Hummel said.

“I’ve never been approached with someone saying that I shouldn’t smoke.”

The policy is not unique to MU, according to Americans for Nonsmokers’ Rights website, there are 1,427 college and university campuses across the U.S. that are tobacco free. The goal of tobacco-free policies is to protect the health of all students and faculty, smoking and non-smoking. Campus policies encourages cessation for smokers and air quality for other students. According to Americans for Nonsmokers’ Rights, policies are also designed to protect students with respiratory conditions such as asthma and bronchitis.

All tobacco products are banned on any parts of MU campus. This includes the main parts of campus, and other areas such as any MU Extension offices or research facilities that are university owned. All tobacco products are banned, including cigarettes, electronic cigarette devices, and chewing tobacco products. Students and faculty must leave campus before using tobacco to be in compliance with the policy.

The reason many smokers at MU have never been told to stop is because there is no formal enforcement of the policy. The email designed to field questions or concerns about the policy is no longer active, though it is advertised as a resource for campus.

MUPD, the campus police department, does not look for violations of the policy.

“This is not a law violation.  Members of the university community share the responsibility of adhering to and enforcing the policy and have the responsibility for bringing it to the attention of visitors,” Major Brian Weimer said. “Any complaints should be brought to the attention of the appropriate university authorities.”

When the policy began in 2013, MU hired students to spread the word to students and encourage smokers to be in compliance, however that program no longer exists. Now the responsibility of enforcing the ban has fallen on all students and faculty.

According to the Smoke-Free Mizzou website, students should ask anyone violating the policy to stop smoking. In the case that the individual does not comply, the students is “encouraged to report him or her to the dean or building manager in charge of the nearest building,” the website said.

Students are asked to approach others about the violation, and if they do not comply to report smokers to campus officials.

“The policy is enforced just by asking others to respect the smoke-free campus and if there are no results, you can go to that person’s supervisor.” said Communications Manager for MU Operations, Karlan Seville said. “Then it’s up to the supervisor to enforce the policy.”  

However, some students feel uncomfortable at the prospect of approaching a smoker and asking the individual to stop. Even students who are directly affected by smoky air, such as MU sophomore Grace Richardson who suffers from asthma, the prospect is daunting.

“It is too uncomfortable for me to ask anyone to stop,” Richardson said.  “I wouldn’t want to make someone mad at me.”

Richardson says she avoids smoky areas altogether.

“When it’s a bad air day or I’m already asthmatic for the day, when I walk by that area it does make it a little harder,” Richardson said. “It wouldn’t cause me to go into an asthma attack, but it does make it harder to breathe, and it is really annoying.”

The policy was put in place to protect students and community members from harmful second-hand smoke.

“It was more of a campus wanting to make people aware that smoking is not healthy and that second-hand smoke affects other people health and that you should be mindful of other people besides yourself,” Seville said. “You can make your own decisions but when it affects other people, you need to respect the policy and respect their health.”

For some smokers such as Hummel, the knowledge that her habits are hurting other students might deter her. 

“It would depend on the context. If it was a situation where I feel like my smoking is detrimental to them, and I can tell that it is, then I would definitely stop because I know that’s just polite,” Hummel said. “If I know that it’s truly bothering someone else, I’m not stuck up enough to keep smoking.”

The policy was designed to help students; however, a lack of centralized enforcement has allowed for smoking to still be prevalent on campus.

“I wish it was more enforced and they would stop smoking,” Richardson said. “It would make it a little easier for me to breathe.”