ABC News On Campus reporter Andrea Alarcon blogs:
To make Gator Nation healthier, the University of Florida plans to ban the use of all tobacco products on its main campus beginning in July 2010, joining about 140 smoke-free campuses across the country.
In 2007, UF instituted a ban on smoking within 50 feet of any building on campus, on top of the already existing non-smoking one inside facilities. Now it will expand the ban across the university’s grounds.
UF’s Health Science Center and Shands Hospital will begin the smoke-free initiative on Nov.1, when the university will open its new cancer hospital.
“It would be hypocritical to facilitate smoking on our campus while treating people with the same disease that this is causing,” said Shands CEO Dr. Timothy Goldfarb.
Goldfarb said the hospitals’ patients tend to stay an average of four days, in which there doesn’t tend to be a problem with them not smoking. Visitors would be asked to leave campus if they want to smoke.
“I understand the pull of addiction; I was a smoker many years ago,” Goldfarb said. “We hope that our employees know the health problems caused by smoking, and I don’t think the banning will be much of a hurdle.”
The policy emerged from the lobbying by Healthy Gators 2010, a group of students, staff and faculty working to create a healthier campus. The group created a tobacco task force, whose purpose in the last months has been to achieve a tobacco-free campus.
The rule will not be enforced by authorities, said Paula V. Fussell, UF's interim vice president for human resource services. UF officials hope the ban would consist of word-of-mouth encouragement amongst peers.
But, she said, “If a university employee repeatedly goes against the policy there will be disciplinary action. We are hoping that our employees will be ambassadors for this policy.”
UF has been offering smoking cessation classes. Students who smoke more than 10 cigarettes a day are eligible for the Student Health Care Center’s QUIT program.
Juan Carlos Ruge, a mathematics Ph.D. candidate, smokes more than 10 cigarettes a day, but does not have time for smoking cessation classes. He has been addicted for nine years, he said, and all his previous attempts to quit have been unsuccessful. He said that the new initiative will give him another opportunity to try to give it up.
“I really hope I can stop smoking with this,” he said. “With the amount of cigarettes that I smoke right now, I would never have the time to be able to leave campus to just smoke a cigarette.”
Some do not agree with the ban.
Among the common complaints is an inability to enforce the rule, since many acknowledge that they do not follow the already existing ban on smoking within 50 feet of a building.
“Telling a bunch of adults what they can and can’t do on an entire, what, five square miles of land is ridiculous,” said Travis Pillow, a UF journalism senior. “Indoors is one thing: it's a public health menace, but this is basically unenforceable.”
Pillow said he acknowledges that smoking is unhealthy and an expensive habit. “It sucks being a smoker, but I’m addicted, and making people suffer more isn’t going to make them healthier,” he said. “It’ll be more of a hassle, and people will have to sneak around or cross the street or whatever, but that’s all it will accomplish.”
He is planning on quitting because of taxes and he has to start paying for health insurance soon. The fact that UF is banning cigarettes may help in that it could be harder to “bum a smoke” from a passerby. Yet “addicts always find a way around all of it,” he said.