U implements new smoking ban near buildings

The ban is effective within 25 feet of building entrances, including the Washington Avenue Bridge.

The University hopes a new smoking ban outside building entrances will quiet complaints it has been receiving since its indoor smoking ban went into effect 12 years ago.

The ban is effective within 25 feet of building entrances, including the Washington Avenue Bridge, said Dave Golden, Boynton Health Service spokesman. He said it will keep pedestrians from smoke exposure.

“People were having to walk through people smoking (to get in buildings),” Golden said. “All the policy is doing is moving folks away from buildings.”

Golden said signs are posted on building entrances, but there are no plans to enforce the ban or issue fines.

“Mostly, when you see policies like this, they’re just socially enforced,” he said.

Boynton will also provide cessation programs for those who wish to quit smoking.

Fines or not, the ban was welcome news for nonsmokers.

“I don’t really like being around smokers unless it’s my own choice – like if I went to a club or something,” first-year student Ben Pierson said.

Smokers were unfazed by the ban, although some were not aware it existed.

“It doesn’t matter to me at all,” economics senior and smoker Tim Pagel said. “If it bothers people that much, I’ll go the 25 feet in front of a building.”

Samantha Ploetz, a French and Italian department employee, did not realize there was an official ban.

“I didn’t know there was a real ban,” Ploetz said. “I’ve seen the signs, but they’re kind of irregularly placed.”

Golden acknowledged the signs were small, but he said they are meant to be noticed by smokers near building doors, and people farther away might not notice them.

Ashtrays are also supposed to be placed 25 feet away from building entrances, but several still sit close to some buildings, including Coffman Union and the Transportation and Safety Building.

Golden said maintenance crews tried to place ashtrays the required distance from doors, but it was not always logistically or aesthetically possible.

Enforcement – should it become a priority – could also be problematic. Hennepin County, which implemented a smoking ban within 45 feet of county buildings in September 2000, is still struggling with compliance and also has no fines for violations.

Judy Hollander, director of Property Services for Hennepin County, said enforcement has been difficult because people are not aware of the ban. She said the county recently reviewed its policy and decided to place larger signs in more conspicuous places.

“I think enforcement continues to be an issue because members of the public visit and they don’t know the rule,” she said.

For now, University officials are confident the ban is working.

“We walked through the mall yesterday and there was no one anywhere near any doors,” Golden said.

Related Articles:

Task force proposes new campus smoking limits