The Physical Environment Committee of UW-Milwaukee has re-proposed the idea for UWM go possibly go smoke-free, meaning students who smoke on campus blocks will have to find a place off campus to smoke. The public campus smoking policy currently in place offers inclusive zones for smokers in higher traffic areas such as patio sections and a 25-foot barrier around building doors, but some feel it isn’t enough.
The proposal was first pitched as a goal in 2015, but the debate between smoke-free and the rights of students on a public campus has prolonged the process.
“The other argument remains that by banning smoking, we thus limit the rights of students on campus,” Riley Ancil, Helen Bader School of Social Welfare Senator said about the debate.
Freshman Pre-Med student, Marcus Snow said that even if the campus went smoke-free, it doesn’t stop students from smoking, which could stack up costs for citations for students.
“If you are allowing students to live on campus, you are allowing them their right [to choose to smoke].” Snow said.
UWM’s Smoking Policy states that it is “committed to maintaining a safe campus environment,” and that it “acts to the extent possible to shield its students and employees from harm, to mitigate the established health risks associated with the exposure of second-hand smoke.”
UWM already has restrictions on where to smoke, prohibiting smoking 25 to 30 feet away from buildings, inside parking structures and inside company vehicles. Patios around Sandburg resident hall allow areas for students to go, as well as public areas around campus, but are discouraged around high traffic areas, such as the area under the Golda Meir Library.
Myah Curtis, a sophomore Health Science major, said she thinks the campus should be smoke free because of the health risks that comes with exposure of second-hand smoke and its negative impact on the environment around UWM’s campus.
“You can’t walk across campus without smelling other people’s smoke,” Curtis said. “If you have to step off the block, so be it.”.
Ancil said that sidewalks around campus are out of campus jurisdiction and could allow an area for smokers, an argument the Physical Environment Committee proposed as an alternative to smoking on campus.
Freshman Maykee Mona came to UWM as a smoker and uses the areas designated for smokers but said that the idea might not be doable for such a large campus. The alternative idea also has consequences, with a large number of students walking off campus to smoke, it could put some students in danger.
Freshman Lindsey Bauer said she understands why some want the policy changed, having seen the discarded cigarette butts laying around and sometimes walking through a patch of smoke. The idea, Bauer said, would help those with weak immune systems and lungs, or suffer from asthma and other lung issues.
Discarded cigarette butts, or the remaining filter of the cigarette that cannot burn, are another reason Curtis wants a change in the policy, saying that the image could be a turn-off to perspective students who tour campus.
Junior Jeriney Rhode is another smoker who uses the designated areas and said the possible change to smoke free would have flaws for those who want to enforce it.
“[UWM] has too many commuters and residences who smoke,” Rhode said, and that the “flaws of enforcing it severely disadvantages those who smoke.” Rhode also said that due to the prevalence of smoking in college students would only make it harder to enforce.
According to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 13 percent of young adults from 18 years-old to 24 smoke, with a higher prevalence in groups such as military personal and in the LGBTQ community.
Alyson Schefft, a freshman who recently quit smoking, said that the stress of college and the policy change might not have a positive outcome for those who choose to smoke.
“I also don’t think that people will be willing to cooperate,” Schefft said.
Mona said a compromise could be adding more cigarette disposals could be placed around campus to keep from littering.
“Just because you take away the area doesn’t mean people will stop,” Snow said about enforcing the possible outcome
In 2015, the Physical Environment Committee proposed a change to the UWM smoking policy to also include e-cigarettes and vaporizers, all of which are not allowed inside school buildings or vehicles.
“The argument is going back and forth between [the Student Association and the Physical Environment Committee] and we should see resolve shortly,” Ancil said about the progress of the debated change.