Most of U would support a campuswide smoking ban

Most people at the University of Minnesota would support a campuswide smoking ban, according to the results of a University opinion survey. The University held a smoking policy discussion at the St. Paul Student Center Theater on Wednesday to discuss the possibility of prohibiting smoking throughout campus. Katherine Himes, senior vice president of academic affairs , presented results of a survey conducted by the University to see how much campus support there is for a smoke-free policy. According to the survey, 53.6 percent of students said they were very likely or likely to support a campuswide smoking ban, and 58.1 percent of faculty and staff also support the ban. The University distributed surveys to 5,000 random students and 2,000 random faculty and staff members. One of the seven people at the Wednesday discussion said the survey was misrepresenting the community. Public health graduate student Tracy Cleveland said the survey is biased because healthier and more health-conscious people complete these kinds of surveys. Cleveland, who opposes the smoking ban, said the University needs to do a better job of informing the community. âÄúIf I didnâÄôt sign on to my University account yesterday, I never would have made it here during my lunch break today or even known that these meetings were being held,âÄù Cleveland said. To find out how the campus would react to a campuswide smoking ban, the University created a work group in August. The group has representatives from offices across campus and will have consulted with more than 30 campus groups by the end of December. People can also comment online at the ProvostâÄôs website, Himes said. University administrators told the work group to gather the information and complete the consultation process by the end of the month, Himes said. âÄúWe donâÄôt want to give you the impression that weâÄôre trying to bin responses in a certain way,âÄù Himes said. Maria Rudie, associate program director at Boynton Health Service , said the results reflected campus demographics well. The survey indicated that 4.1 percent of the student body use tobacco daily and 5.1 percent of faculty and staff do as well. Most students, faculty and staff said the University does not do a good job enforcing the current smoking policy outside of building entrances, according to the survey. On a daily basis, people smoke right next to the signs that tell them not to, Rudie said. The University will make a decision by spring 2009. If a new smoking policy is adopted, the summer and fall will be used to publicize the change and smoking cessation programs will increase, Himes said. The ban would officially begin in January 2010. Many colleges in the area are curious about what the University will decide, because many of them are considering similar policies, Himes said. There will be another open forum for students, faculty and the Twin Cities community to attend at Coffman Union on Dec. 8, at 4 p.m.