COLUMBIA — Smokers on MU's campus likely will be putting out their cigarettes sooner than expected: Students, faculty and staff are voting to move implementation of the campus smoking ban to July 1, 2013.
The Staff Advisory Council, the Missouri Students Association, the Residence Halls Association, the Legion of Black Collegians and theGraduate Professional Council have all voted in favor of changing implementation from Jan. 1, 2014 to next summer. Faculty Council is the last to vote and is still discussing via email the proposed new date, but Chair Harry Tyrer said it is likely that the council will vote in favor to approve the change.
"The reason for changing it to six months earlier is that it's less obtrusive to students," Tyrer said. By changing the date to mid-summer, "students are probably better off, knowing that there is no smoking on campus than going halfway through the year and someone says, hey, there's no smoking on campus."
In February, the student association initiated the discussion of an earlier smoking ban and approached three other student organizations. The students later contacted administrators after passing a resolution in the student association Senate in March to ban smoking by January 2013. The groups negotiated and agreed that the summer of 2013 was the better option.
“I think it will be an easier transition than we think,” MU Wellness Resource Center Director Kim Dude said. “Any time there is a change, there is a little bit of resistance. Basically, once people know what the policies are, they will abide by them."
Dude said that students have wanted to implement the ban for a while, and that university and college campuses nationwide are becoming smoke-free as a part of a growing trend. According to Americans for Nonsmokers' Rights, 774 campuses are now smoke-free and 562 of these campuses are tobacco-free.
About 14 percent of college students are regular tobacco users and these numbers are comparable to smokers on MU's campus, said Wellness Resource Center Coordinator Tiffany Bowman.
MSA President Xavier Billingsley said MU has fallen behind other universities and colleges in becoming smoke-free because limiting smoking in stages was ineffective.
“Essentially, what we did is we wanted to make it clear-cut that you can't smoke on campus, and we don't want to have these zones again because it is kind of confusing,” Billingsley said. “We believe people will be more attentive to what they can or cannot do."
The transition to a smoke-free campus began in 2009 when smokers were no longer allowed to light up in university buildings or within 20 feet of entrances. Smokers on campus today can only smoke in areas around 15 designated urns, in parking lots, or on top of parking garages. MU Health Care property has been smoke-free since 2006.
The upcoming smoking ban will affect everyone on the MU campus,"including visitors, faculty, staff, volunteers, students, alumni, contractors and service representatives," according to the policy posted on the university's website. The policy states that smokers who violate the rules are to be reported to a department dean or building manager at the closest building, and employees to their supervisors or Human Resources. Administrators have not yet decided the consequences for violators of the policy once the ban starts, Billingsley said.
“Anybody who commutes and walks around campus will be most affected,” Billingsley said. “It just cleans the air, and it's not a health issue; it's about the general common space for everyone who is here at Mizzou.”
MU Student Center restaurant manager Debbie Patterson has been a smoker for the last 30 years but does not think the new implementation date for the smoking ban will be a problem.
“I support the policy,” Patterson said, laughing to herself as she took another drag during a midday smoke break. “It’s better for your health, better for your pocket, better for a lot of reasons."
In her view, the current smoking areas are not effective and are inconsiderate to nonsmokers. She said she wishes the ban would become effective even sooner — in less than six months.
“We've known about this for a year and half now,” Patterson said. “Why didn't they just make it one phase? I think a lot of people would have quit cold turkey.”
But she's not one of them. Although she said she's not planning to quit, she'll be OK surviving an eight-hour shift without a cigarette.
University of Missouri System Wellness Program Director Laura Schopp, who supported the earlier implementation and asked Faculty Council to get on board, said that regardless of when the ban comes into effect, people still need to be educated about the policy and campus cessation services.
“Our end of it through the Wellness Program is to support people through that change when it happens,” Schopp said.
A Missouri Foundation for Health grant currently funding the Wellness Resource Center’s smoking-cessation program, which includes one-on-one therapy and nicotine replacement therapy, ends in April 2013. Dude said implementing the ban earlier might give smokers a greater sense of urgency about seeking help before the funding runs out.
“I think there is a lot of support for the policy, and I think that the sooner we can do it the better,” Dude said.