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SU moves forward with plans to implement tobacco-free campus policy next summer

Renee Zhou | Asst. Photo Editor

Syracuse University is quitting smoking.

After nearly a decade of research, public debate and coordination, SU is planning to go smoke-free, with a campus-wide tobacco ban targeted to start next summer.

The goal of the ban is to create a smoking-free culture on campus. SU officials cited second-hand smoke, health concerns, campus cleanliness and public opinion as reasons for the policy. The university is still in the process of hashing out the specific details of the tobacco ban, and will be releasing all the information once the policy is completed.

The policy is expected to be ready for public review by the first week of November, Patrick Neary, Graduate Student Organization president, said in an email.

“Updates will be provided to the campus community as the initiative continues to move forward,” said Brooke Levandowski, SU’s administrative consultant on this new policy, in an email. “We are happy to grant interviews when we are ready for the announcement.”

The tobacco-free campus policy will go under review at least three more times, said Erin Kane, SU’s associate vice president for public relations. The policy will be reviewed by the University Senate, the Student Association and at a campus community open forum prior to its implementation, she said.

Neary said in an interview that there is plenty of opportunity for changes to the policy with student feedback.

“If the whole thing gets implemented next summer and there’s a bunch of backlash, I know there are plans in place already to do re-evaluations periodically of the policy and how well it’s being implemented,” he said.

While the smoking ban is planned to be campus-wide, locations that intersect with public uses such as the Carrier Dome, the Sheraton Hotel and public streets on campus such as Waverly Avenue and Comstock Avenue will need more time for consideration, Neary added.

The policy should be more focused on creating a smoke-free culture at SU than about punishing smokers, said Thomas Dennison, director of the Health Services Management and Policy Program. Dennison has studied and supported the effects of a tobacco ban at SU for many years, but is not a part of the policymaking discussion.

The GSO has raised concerns about enforcement of the smoking ban, as the purpose of the ban is not to punish smokers.

Department of Public Safety officers have said in the past they were not interested in handing out tickets for smoking on campus, as it would distract their officers from safety concerns, Neary said. For graduate students, the concern is centered on making sure people follow the new policy, especially professors, he added.

“There are very few students who are going to be willing to approach a department chair and say anything, especially graduate students in that department,” Neary said.

Researchers have been talking to students, faculty groups and unions on campus to discuss the effects of the smoking ban for several years. The discussion started during Nancy Cantor’s tenure as chancellor at SU. In recent weeks, SU has been reaching out to tobacco users in focus groups on campus for feedback, as they will be affected the most.

A 2011 survey by Colleges for Change showed that about 20 percent of college students nationally use tobacco. About 26 percent of SU staff and faculty members smoke, Neary said.

While discussions on this policy have been considered since 2004, the decision came during this past summer, Neary said.

Research and feedback has shown that an overwhelming amount of students support the smoking ban on campus, Dennison said. He added that it was students that introduced this idea in the first place.

“We did in that group look at benchmark institutions and we’re way behind the curve at Syracuse University,” Dennison said. “Many other campuses that we benchmarked against have gone tobacco free long before. We’re kind of an island up here on the hill of places that are tobacco free.”

There are currently 1,477 smoke-free campuses in the country, according to an Oct. 1 report from the American Nonsmokers’ Rights Foundation. SU is surrounded by smoke-free institutions, including the Crouse Hospital College of Nursing, the State University of New York Upstate Medical University and its hospitals.

With the ban being implemented, the nearest refuge for smokers on the Hill would be a few blocks off-campus.

Said Neary: “Even if we’ve pushed it to the outskirts of campus, the outskirts of campus, as far as physical roads go, are never that far away.”

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