Committee wants more no-smoking signs

Although campus became tobacco-free in 2014, leaders notice continued smoking.

Benjamin Farniok

Smokers may soon have to ignore even more no-tobacco signs when they light up on campus.
 
Next month, the committee responsible for implementing the smoke-free policy — which has been in effect since last year — will meet to discuss whether the policy should expand signage and find other ways to continue reducing smoking at the University of Minnesota.
 
Most of the school’s signs line high traffic areas where they are more likely to be seen, said Dave Golden, director of public health and communication for Boynton Health Service.
 
Golden identified the area near Kolthoff Hall — a spot he said is sparsely marked by signs and frequented by a high number of smokers — as a possible candidate for more signage.
 
Additional notification at campus entry points could remind the University community of the policy, as well as any visitors who may not be aware of the campus rule, he said.
 
Although more signage could help promote the policy, it probably would not be enough to stop all smokers on campus, Golden said. Some areas with plentiful signage still have issues with smokers, he said, like near Moos Tower.
 
“Signs have a limited capacity to help. They won’t totally solve your problem,” he said.
 
To reduce smoking, campus norms first change, said Harry Lando, professor of epidemiology and community health in the School of Public Health.
 
In parts of the world where smoking is more normalized, it is much more common for people to smoke in more heavily populated places, he said.
 
“We did surveys of medical doctors in Indonesia. We also did work in India, and the medical doctors said that they thought it was safe to smoke up to 10 cigarettes a day,” he said.
 
Lando said he believes increasing the presence of no-smoking signs around the school could add social pressure that would make people less likely to smoke.
 
Morris Martinez, a food service worker in Coffman Union and a smoker, said he thinks signs could serve to keep people from smoking if posted in areas smokers frequent.
Martinez also said he believes there should be areas on campus people are allowed to smoke in.
 
“A lot of people have the habit,” he said. “I just feel like we should have the right to smoke.”
 
Since smoking was banned last year, the rate of students aged 18 to 24 years who smoke daily on campus has dropped to 1.3 percent from 1.9 percent in 2013, Golden said. He said the committee wants to see even more compliance.
 
“The idea is if we are going to have that policy, it should be publicized better,” said Randy Croce, chair of the Social Concerns Committee, which is looking into bringing the sign proposal to the University Senate.
 
Croce said he believes it is important to educate people on school policies to make sure they are followed properly.
 
Besides increasing signs, health officials walk through problem areas to stop students smoking and inform them of the policy, Golden said. He said students are usually already aware that they are breaking campus rules by lighting up at school.
 
A campus assessment of the policy last April showed that 87 percent of University staff and faculty and 78 percent of students support the policy.