Some ignore University smoking ban

by Ellen Schmidt

Though the University of Minnesota grounds have been tobacco-free since last summer, some smokers continue to light up at their favorite on-campus spots. The University promoted social enforcement when it implemented the ban in July, but some students say that asking smokers to put out their cigarettes is uncomfortable and the school should work to increase awareness of the policy. The Health Law and Bioethics Association student group recently sent a letter to the student government group Law Council with concerns about areas around Mondale Hall that still had outdoor ashtrays and intermittent smokers. In response, the Law SchoolâÄôs Assistant Dean of Students Erin Keyes sent an email notice last week to law students reminding them of the smoke-free policy, noting the problematic area. Since the email was sent, the outdoor ashtrays have been removed. âÄúWe had a plan to get all of those ash urns off campus, and there were a number, so it is conceivable that we might have missed one or two,âÄù said Tim Busse, departmental director of University Services. âÄúWeâÄôve also heard at least a couple of reports of people bringing in their own ash urns.âÄù The schoolâÄôs âÄúShare the AirâÄù website thatâÄôs dedicated to informing the campus about the policy has an option to report areas with frequent smokers. In addition, the site offers printable enforcement cards that explain the policy and are aimed to help people enforce the policy in a non-confrontational manner. âÄúI would feel uncomfortable telling somebody I didnâÄôt know that I just happened to be passing on the sidewalk that theyâÄôre not allowed to be smoking on campus,âÄù said Catherine Ellis, co-chair of the Health Law and Bioethics Association. Though the University expects students, staff and faculty to hold each other accountable, smoking or using tobacco on campus is in violation of the student conduct code. But reporting a complaint is a tedious process and may not be effective, school officials say, and social enforcement is a better option. âÄúThereâÄôs a lot to [the student conduct code process],âÄù said Sharon Dzik, director of the Office for Student Conduct and Academic Integrity. âÄúSo weâÄôre really just trying to work with people on a human level and say, âÄòHereâÄôs why this is a problem. Could you guys please realize that youâÄôre prohibiting other people who might have allergies or asthma and they canâÄôt even walk through here?âÄôâÄù Dzik noted that there are areas around her office in Appleby Hall where smoking is still a problem, and she always has to hold her breath as she passes them. Increased compliance to the policy will be gradual, said Dave Golden, the director of public health and communications at Boynton Health Service. âÄúVirtually every school thatâÄôs done this, the compliance goes up and up as the policy stays in place,âÄù he said, âÄúbecause people realize that they canâÄôt be smoking and having other people breathe secondhand smoke, which does harm for everybody.âÄù