Ever-present cigarette butts signal limited effect of MU's smoking restrictions

Wednesday, September 21, 2011 | 3:17 p.m. CDT; updated 4:00 p.m. CDT, Wednesday, September 21, 2011

COLUMBIA — Cigarette butts can be seen along the sidewalks around Francis Quadrangle, through Lowry Mall, past Memorial Union and all the way to the MU Student Center.

Scattered about campus are signs that the second phase of a plan to make MU smoke-free by 2014 is not a complete success.

Since July 1, smoking has been allowed at MU only in parking lots, on the rooftops of parking garages and in 15 other designated outdoor areas. When this phase took effect, far fewer people were on campus.

The restrictions have been a surprise to some people returning to or new to campus. Others don't care about the policy.

Nathan Watson, who was smoking at Speakers Circle early Tuesday afternoon, said it doesn't affect him day to day.

"Obviously I'm still smoking, like hard, like on my porch," said Watson, who was visiting campus. "It's a minor inconvenience at most."

Watson thinks hiring people to enforce the smoking ban would help.

"You have to make it somebody's job," he said.

That's not likely to happen. According to Smoke-Free Mizzou, a website dedicated to MU's smoking ban, violators can be reported to the dean or building manager in charge of the nearest building. If the violators are employees, they can be reported to their supervisor or human resources. But that's about the extent of any related discipline.

MU spokesman Christian Basi said campus-wide compliance will take time, but that he thinks it will eventually become part of the culture.

The website encourages members of the university community to remind people of the policy in a kind, respectful way:

“Employees and students are expected to courteously remind any employee, student, visitor, vendor or contractor violating the policy that the university prohibits smoking of all tobacco products outside of designated area,” it states.

On a recent Friday, Ellen Clippard sat outside the MU Student Center near a smoking urn for cigarette butts. Clippard, a senior majoring in geological sciences who started smoking when she was 16, is OK with the latest restrictions.

"I won't smoke where it's not allowed because I respect the rule,” she said.

Clippard is optimistic that MU will reach its goal to become smoke-free.

"Some people still smoke on campus, but in most parts, it will be pretty smoke-free,” she said.

David McRae, a junior sociology major, said he does not support the ban. He said he thinks the policy makers fail to consider the social aspects of smoking. 

"It's singling out a group of students,” said McRae, who was smoking in a designated area outside Ellis Library. "(Smoking) gives you a reason to step outside and have a conversation with someone.”

Some students try to walk a middle ground. Junior Katrina Beebe does not smoke and dislikes walking near people who do, but she said she respects their right to make their own choices.

For smokers who are looking to quit, MU is offering group and individual therapy as well as nicotine-replacement products at no cost.

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Richard Saunders September 21, 2011 | 4:26 p.m.

Nanny-state regimes do nothing but produce childish adults who want to further the nanny-state. All because they fear living in a world where adults are allowed not only to make their own choices, but to be individually responsible for them.

In other words, it's the antithesis of America.

(Report Comment)
Joe Smyser January 19, 2012 | 5:08 p.m.

Aside from people's right not to be exposed to second-hand smoke (while smoking is not a legally protected right), cigarette butts are consistently the #1 collected item in school, city, beach and river cleanups. 360 billion are dropped/flicked out into the environment in the U.S. every year. And they're really toxic. Just one cigarette butt kills aquatic life. They meet the scientific definition of toxic waste. This doesn't seem to be a case of infringing on personal liberties. It seems to be a cut-and-dry case of reacting to hard data. For more info:

(Report Comment)

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