Coalition of student groups calls for campus smoking ban

[email protected] More than 10 University of Minnesota student groups , led by Colleges Against Cancer , have joined a coalition calling for a complete campus smoking ban. The gathering of student group support coincides with two discussions on the campus smoking ban to be held on campus in early December. John Kieffer, president of the UniversityâÄôs chapter of Colleges Against Cancer , said the group is also calling for the University to accompany a ban with free smoking cessation programs and a pre-ban educational campaign. Kieffer said Colleges Against Cancer first emailed more than 600 student groups in mid-November about joining the coalition and hopes to have a finalized list by next weekend. Once the list is complete, group members will present it to a work group made up of University students, staff and faculty who are charged with gauging campus support for a smoking ban. As part of this process, the University will hold two open forum discussions on campus. The first will take place on Dec. 3 in St. Paul. The second is scheduled on Dec. 8 at Coffman Union . Second-year dental student Alissa Hanson, an officer with the Christian Medical and Dental Student Association , said her group decided to join the coalition to promote better health on campus, with hopes of decreasing the number of smokers. Senior Luke Silovich, co-chair of the Student-Athlete Advisory Committee and an officer for the Association of Students in Education and Human Development, said both groups have joined the coalition. Many members of SAAC believe the secondhand smoke they encounter at bus stops and while walking on campus may hinder their ability to perform well as athletes, he said. But not all students or student groups stand behind the coalitionâÄôs mission. While the majority voted to join the coalition, Silovich said a small percentage of SAAC members didnâÄôt want to. âÄúSome (said) that itâÄôs taking rights away from people, and that if people want to smoke, they should have the right to do so,âÄù Silovich said. Junior Kristi Johnson, president of the F.I.B.E.R. Club , said the health and nutrition group doesnâÄôt support a complete campus ban on smoking. They take issue with the idea of smoking being illegal even outside of campus buildings, she said. They also think enforcement of the ban would be difficult, she said. While theyâÄôre against smoking, they also donâÄôt believe the University should be making personal decisions for those on campus, she said. Senior Jessica Bedi, president of the Minority Association of Pre-Medical Students , said her group hasnâÄôt taken on a stance. âÄúThere are some people who are very against smoking, and there are some students who donâÄôt feel they have the right to take away the right to smoke regardless of how they feel about smoking,âÄù she said. Across the United States, more than 160 colleges and universities have banned smoking and tobacco on campus. The University of Minnesota Duluth is one of those schools, and the University of Minnesota Crookston will become smoke-free by January 2009. Dave Golden, public health and marketing director for Boynton Health Services , said student group input will be a vital part of gauging support of a smoking ban. He said several student groups, including the Student Health Advisory Committee, which he advises, and the Minnesota Student Association , are being consulted as well. âÄúYou do want to get input from all the different people this might affect,” he said.