By John Ochira, Staff Writer
UMF Department of Public Safety is gearing up to enforce the smoke-free policy that bans the use of any tobacco product across the campus, including but not limited to, areas such as the athletic facilities, university parking lots and even the sidewalks bordering campus property.
According to Celeste Branham, Vice President for Student and Community Services, the policy was enacted to protect student health. “Our policy had all to do with the scientific evidence that smoking negatively impacts the health of our community,” Brenham said. Lisa Lisius, Nurse Manager at the Health Center agreed with Branham. “I think it is a great thing for a campus that cares about health and wellness.”
The policy came into effect last semester, but the President’s office gave a six-month grace period during which it educated the campus about the dangers of smoking and about the new policy. Head of the UMF Public Safety Department Edward Blais said his department is ready to begin enforcing the policy. “We have the capacity to do it, and we’re ready,” Blais said.
As the enforcement body, the Department of Public Safety plans to carry out this task in a seemingly friendly manner. “We’re not going to fine people the first time they’re caught violating the policy,” said Chief Blais. “We will give them a warning first,” he added. The warnings are intended to give people an opportunity to learn about the policy. “We want to be educative, not punitive,” said Branham, but if students continue to disrespect the policy, Public Safety will take action. According to Chief Blais, “You get three strikes” and then you will receive a $25 fine. The fine increases from $25 to $50 to $100 if a student faculty or staff continues to violate the policy after the third warning.
Despite the leniency built into the enforcement procedure, some students feel that the policy lacks reasonable accommodation. Forrest Gonsalves, a freshmen and smoker, said that the policy makes a reasonable request, however, it fails to provide a reasonable accommodation for smokers. Gonsalves is particularly concerned that the new policy will force smokers to crowd the downtown area and negatively impact the health of the people of Farmington. “I feel like a jerk walking downtown and little kids are walking by me and inhaling the smoke from my cigarette,” Gonsalves said. “But I try to keep my cigarette out of their way” he added.
Lisius encourages smokers to avoid crowding and to be more aware of where they are. “There is a personal responsibility to it no matter what,” Lisius said. “When you walk off campus please be more aware of where you are smoking so that it doesn’t negatively affect other people,” she added. Lisius acknowledged that the policy would essentially increase smoking in the downtown area, but she maintained that smokers can and should avoid smoking in other people’s faces. “I don’t want to make people who choose to smoke feel like they are bad people, but I do think, and most of them realize that it’s a personal choice, and that they don’t really want to blow smoke in other people’s faces,” Lisius said.
While Gonsalves acknowledges Lisius’ point, he disagreed with her, saying that there is a better alternative to making UMF a healthier campus than exporting “our cigarette smoke and waste” to downtown Farming. He believes that if there was a smoking area off sight, where there is no human traffic, then smokers would not have to be in anybody’s face and cigarette waste would be managed. “I hate going off-campus and flicking cigarette butts everywhere.”