Campus tobacco sale ban sought

Maggie Hessel-Mial

University students, faculty and staff already have to step outside if they want to grab a smoke.

But if two Boynton Health Service committees have their say, on-campus smokers will be sent even farther away.

The Twin Cities Student Unions Board of Governors will debate a resolution Nov. 29 that would ban all tobacco sales on campus, said Kristen Moore, president of the board.

“The board is trying to elicit feedback from students in the University community,” Moore said. “The University community will be more affected by this decision, and we’re trying to get students’ opinion.”

Boynton’s Alcohol, Tobacco and Other Drug Use and Student Health Advisory committees sent the resolution last spring, but because of time constraints it was tabled until now.

“We’re not trying to take away students’ freedom,” said Gail Musolf, chairwoman of the Student Health Advisory Committee. “If you look at all the research the University does on the harmful effects of tobacco, selling tobacco is working against everything the ‘U’ is trying to study.”

“There are plenty of places people can walk off campus and buy cigarettes,” she said.

TCSU could lose $60,000 in yearly revenues if they stop selling tobacco, said marketing director Karen Lyons. Half of that figure comes directly from tobacco sales, while the other $30,000 comes from additional items purchased by students who buy tobacco.

“If TCSU were to lose $60,000 in revenue we would be expected to make that up,” Lyons said. “We might have to look to the students fees committee to help.”

Edward Ehlinger, Boynton director, said tobacco use among college students nationwide has increased 60 percent in the last 10 years.

“The tobacco industry is
targeting 18- to 24-year-olds,” Ehlinger said. “Eliminating the sale of tobacco on campus is just one of many steps that need to be done.”

University policy mandated smoke-free buildings in 1992, but continues to allow tobacco sales on campus. The TCSU board will have the final say on whether the products could be sold at three locations on campus – St. Paul Student Center, West Bank skyway and Coffman Union once it is completed.

Many students said they do not have a problem with tobacco sales on campus.

Sara West, a freshman living in Bailey Hall, said she estimates close to 50 percent of students on campus smoke.

“I’m always seeing smokers standing outside of Bailey,” she said.

West said she doesn’t choose to smoke but doesn’t think the University selling cigarettes is a big deal.

“Basically if (smokers) want to destroy their lungs they can,” she said. “It’s a personal decision.”

Craig England, a junior and occasional cigarette buyer on the St. Paul campus, said if the union stops selling cigarettes he would just purchase them elsewhere, despite the lack of places to buy them near the St. Paul campus.

“As long as I smoke I will buy my cigarettes – whether they are on campus or not,” England said.

He said he does not see many reasons for the University not to sell tobacco products on campus and said he thinks the sales might bring in additional revenue.

“I realize it’s supposed to be a smoke-free campus, but I don’t see any reason not to sell cigarettes,” England said. “If a student doesn’t want to smoke, they don’t have to buy cigarettes.”

Maggie Hessel-Mial welcomes comments at [email protected]