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Ineffective smoking policy lights fuse among college students

By Joie Nishimoto,

Smoking signs are posted throughout the campus to alert students that smoking is prohibited. A sign is located outside of the back entrance of Crawford Hall, but some people often smoke outside in that area, less than 25 feet from the building — in violation of the smoking policy — and nearby trees.

Despite an ongoing trend nationwide where campuses are banning the use of tobacco products, some students at the University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa have disregarded the school’s outdated policy.

Stephanie Le, 20, a travel industry management major, takes classes at the University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa every day, said she often noticed people smoking in areas where it is prohibited.

“Students smoking in areas where they aren’t supposed to is disrespectful towards the school policies and also potentially dangerous.” Le said.

Smoking policy in place

Deborah Huebler, director of Campus Services, said a smoking policy was issued in 2003 by the UH system. An updated version of the policy, Executive Policy E10.102, was provided by the Office of the Vice President for Administration and Chief Financial Officer in 2010.

“Based upon this policy, smoking is prohibited in all (UH Mānoa) buildings with the exception of private rooms in residence facilities,” Huebler said. “Smokers need to be at least 25 feet away from buildings.”

In addition, Huebler said smoking is also banned on campus courtyards, breezeways, terraces, stairways, access ramps, dining areas and lanais.

Ambiguity in law

Lisa Kehl, a counselor at UH Mānoa’s health services, said many students do not know that smoking is prohibited 50 feet from drop-off points, which includes bus stops. The policy is ambiguous, Kehl said, because some students cannot tell how far away they are from a building.

According to UH Mānoa’s student housing website, all residence halls and apartment complexes are smoke-free, and residents and their guests are not allowed to smoke anywhere within the building.

Although Huebler said she has not received any complaints about smokers in unauthorized parts of campus, some students feel the policy is poorly enforced.

Enforcement

Le, a nonsmoker, said she is against smoking, especially among people her age.

“I dislike the smell, taste and cost of cigarettes,” she said. “(Cigarettes) lead to influence, especially in the younger generation. They see and they do. It provides no benefit to a person’s health, and you’re basically paying for a product that is slowly and incrementally detrimental to your health.”

Kehl did an assessment of Hawai‘i college campuses and their smoking policies, and she found that each campus has itsown policy. In addition, she noticed within the last two years that ashtrays were being placed on the UH Mānoa campus. She said some of the ashtrays are in violation of the policy.

UH’s Beat it Tobacco is a program on campus that provides resources to students who want to quit smoking. Currently, it does not offer counseling services because there isn’t enough funding and there is not a huge demand for cessation services, Kehl said. But if it comes up, Kehl will work with students but not through campus at large.

Le said one popular site for smokers is near the art building.

“I find that students are constantly smoking near the art building where there are numerous gas tanks and multiple signs warning no smoking and open flames,” she said. “If the student wants to put their health in danger, great, but leave other people out of it.”

Kehl said she’s received complaints about frequent smoking near the art building last year. She said people also smoke near McCarthy Hall, away from the building but on the walkway where people pass by and can be exposed to secondhand smoke.

There is no safe amount of exposure to secondhand smoke, Kehl said. UH Mānoa is comprised of many students with specific health issues such as asthma.

Le said the smoking policy at UH Mānoa is not effective because “there is no one to enforce the policies.”

Citations nationwide but not at UHM

Campus Security currently does not offer citations to those caught smoking in prohibited areas.

Kehl said issuing citations is becoming a trend across campuses nationwide. The norm, she said, is that people know now that smoking is not OK.

“Years ago, it was OK to smoke on airplanes,” she said. “Now that idea is ridiculous.”

Kehl also said the policies at UH are highly ineffective.

“When it was put into place (in 2003), it was really innovative and forward-thinking,” she said. “It was designed to prevent secondhand smoke. But it’s been so many years, and there’s a new crop of students that don’t know.”

Le suggested that there should be designated smoking areas for smokers away from buildings, more no smoking signs in prohibited areas, and more education about the dangers of smoking.

Kehl said she worked with ASUH last fall and proposed a new tobacco-free policy. It was passed last spring and approved by the Faculty Senate, but got “tied up” with former chancellor Virginia Hinshaw.

Currently, health services has anti-smoking posters around campus and in the shuttle buses. It will also host its annual Great American Smokeout on Nov. 15 in Campus Center.

But until changes are made, Kehl said she has plans to update the policy website, which has not been updated since 2003.

“We’ll just see how things go,” she said.


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