The push for a smoke-free campus is underway at the University of Maryland, College Park, but is administration just blowing smoke?
Last July, the university joined the rest of the University System of Maryland institutions in banning smoking on-campus. But several months since the policy went into effect, no disciplinary methods have been adopted or enforced.
Vice President for Student Affairs Linda Clement said the university, which has four designated smoking areas on campus, hoped the campus community would help communicate the restrictions of the ban.
“We have hopes that self-regulation will kick in strongly,” Clement said.
The system-wide policy prohibits “carrying or smoking a lighted tobacco product or the burning of any material to be inhaled including, but not limited to, cigarettes, cigars, hookahs and pipes.”
The ban also forbids smoking in university-owned vehicles and the sale of tobacco products on the campus.
But some smokers say the lack of enforcement gives them a free pass to light up anywhere.
University of Maryland student Sarah Miles –- who was smoking in the designated smoking area near McKeldin Library –- said there are several holes in the policy.
“Clearly, there’s still lots of smokers around here. There’s cigarette butts everywhere and people smoke not in this area either. I see people smoking all around campus, so I guess it’s not very effective.”
Miles also said she doesn’t always follow regulations of the ban.
“I go where I want ‘cause you gotta enjoy a cigarette in multiple places.”
One student — smoking about 15 feet from a designated smoking area, who asked to remain anonymous — said despite smoke-free signs and designated smoking areas throughout campus, it is still difficult to take the ban seriously without set enforcement.
“If it’s unenforceable, it’s just like saying something; I don’t think it’s really going to do anything,” she said. “It’s kind of irrelevant. I don’t really pay attention to it.”
Unlike other schools in the university system that have enforcement methods in their policy, like Towson University that issues a $75 fine to violators, Clement said explicit enforcement isn’t necessary on Maryland’s campus.
“We’ve talked about feeling like that isn’t really necessary for our campus. I think that we’d never have our police enforcing a smoking ban because they have so much more important work to do that’s of criminal nature,” she said.
“If we were to regulate, we’d have to bring in some other entity onto campus to do that. But right now, there are no plans.”
The ban was approved by the University Senate and went into effect on July 1. The Board of Regents voted last year to ban smoking throughout the university system, and allowed university presidents to individually approve penalties for violators.
But Maryland approved the ban without determining specific enforcement methods.
Marcia Marinelli, former chair of the Campus Affairs Committee, said during a University Senate meeting in April that the committee did not want the university’s police department to handle enforcement.
“This is not consistent with our campus culture. Instead, the committee suggests graduated enforcement. We need to focus on a change in culture and in creating new social norms,” Marinelli said according to minutes from the meeting.
“We are an educational institution so we want to educate people about the health concerns related to smoking. We would like to get to a point where our community feels comfortable telling smokers that we are a smoke-free campus.”
However, one student says since the implementation of the ban, she has found herself lighting up more.
“Before there was a ban, I didn’t see very many people on campus smoking, so I kind of felt bad about smoking around other people who weren’t.” Junior Danielle Daines said. “But now that there’s a section where all of the smokers come, I’m like ‘I don’t care about smoking anymore because every else is’.”
Sophomore Kristy Vo –- who said she doesn’t smoke –- said the designated smoking areas help to communicate the university’s message across to some, but enforcement is still needed.
“I definitely think that there should be a little bit of enforcement, not like police officers walking around, but I do think that the ones who do smoke wherever they please should be maybe fined or ticketed or warned that there are designated areas that they should smoke and that they should stay in that area,” Vo said.
Campus newspaper The Diamondback reports the university’s Residence Hall Association unanimously passed a smoking ban resolution on Nov. 19, 2013 to try to improve enforcement after students expressed concern about regulation.
The RHA’s resolution included upholding administrative sanctions and supporting possible new efforts like a memo to the campus community.