Despite the tobacco-free policy that went into effect more than a year ago, students still witness smoking and tobacco use across campus.
The university’s non-smoking policy states that smoking and tobacco use, including e-cigarettes and related products, on campus is prohibited. However, the policy’s success depends on the “cooperation and consideration” of the university community.
“We aren’t a completely tobacco-free campus,” junior Amanda Shapiro said. “It’s a good thing that they have the rule in place, but they’ve been slacking in enforcing it.”
Shapiro said she does not think the policy is well-advertised. She said the administration should address the student body to make sure everyone knows that campus is tobacco-free.
Stefan Bartell, a second-year graduate student, said part of the reason might be confusion over where campus ends and the city of Newark begins.
“If there were some rule that made it easier to tell whether people were breaking it—like you can’t smoke within some distance of the university buildings—then it would be easier to follow,” he said.
Rebecca Jaeger, president of Student Government Association (SGA), said the idea behind the policy is “to have the community take ownership of the issue and enforce the policy among ourselves.” She agreed that it currently is not being enforced well enough. SGA proposed the ban before it went into effect in August 2014.
“One thing SGA is looking into is more signage and publicity for the ban,” Jaeger said. “It is still a new policy, so we are constantly looking at new ways to increase awareness of the ban and improve its enforcement.”
Ana Martínez-Vela, a visiting professor from the University of Granada, said she has been a smoker for years. Like many smokers, Martínez-Vela is trying to kick the habit.
She said she is normally a very strong-willed person and can do anything she sets her mind to, but quitting smoking has proved to be harder than she thought. Martínez-Vela said she hates to see young people start smoking. She would rather see them engaging in more healthy, creative hobbies than using tobacco.
“Cigarettes are an addiction, just like drugs. It’s better never to start,” she said. “Be a reader or enjoy movies or paint or go hiking, anything instead of that stupid habit.”
Martínez-Vela said she knows how easy it is to miss the signs of a growing addiction. Many young people smoke at parties or in other social settings, but Shapiro said the toll it takes on your health and your wallet aren’t worth it.
Shapiro interned at a hospital over the summer and saw many patients with lung diseases like chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).
She said smoking is one of the “stupidest” decisions someone can make. She said the patients she worked with who suffered from COPD would agree with her.
“It’s so damaging and to start on that path for the sake of social interactions? I don’t think it’s very smart,” Shapiro said. “I don’t like seeing people start because I’ve seen what the end of that path looks like.”
Jaeger said the university adopted the tobacco-free policy “in an effort to make campus cleaner and to improve the air quality for everyone.” The health risks associated with tobacco use and secondhand smoke were also a major factor.
“Nothing should be positive about smoking,” Martínez-Vela said. “Absolutely nothing.”