The University Senate approved an implementation plan for the campuswide smoking ban scheduled to go into effect on July 1, delaying punitive enforcement for at least a year and not calling for designated smoking areas.
After the Board of Regents voted in summer 2012 to ban smoking throughout the University System of Maryland, the senate’s campus affairs committee devised a plan for effective implementation, which passed in the senate yesterday by a 71-22 vote. Now the bill goes to university President Wallace Loh, who is likely to approve it before it becomes official campus policy.
A campus affairs poll conducted during the plan’s drafting and review found about two-thirds of the campus community was at least “moderately” in favor of a campuswide smoking ban.
Committee Chairwoman Marcy Marinelli said it’s unrealistic to expect the ban to eliminate all smoking on the campus and it would be wrong to immediately punish violators.
“We did not want College Park to become a smoking police state where people were caught smoking and handed a ticket,” Marinelli said before the vote was originally supposed to take place, before it was postponed for inclement weather. “We didn’t want the police to be involved in it.”
Under the plan, those found smoking on the campus during the ban’s first year of implementation would not face punishment.
“We really thought it was more important, in keeping with our campus culture, to have a community of respect — the focus being on wellness issues, as opposed to a sort of punitive, ‘You’re a smoker, you’re bad, you’re outcast’ kind of thing,” Marinelli said.
Though the bill passed with broad support, some senators said the committee’s decision not to suggest designated smoking areas on the campus would frustrate faculty, staff and student smokers.
“It’s a safety issue for students to walk off campus at night,” said Kristen Essel, a Residence Hall Association senator who recommended several locations as potential smoking areas. “And if they need to get a fix of nicotine between classes, they can’t walk all the way down to Route 1 and then back and still be able to learn.”
Not designating special smoking zones, undergraduate senator Alex Miletich said, is unfair to campus smokers.
“We are going to create almost a second class of citizens here at the University of Maryland if we do not have something to this effect,” said Miletch, a senior government and politics and theatre major.
Punishment for smokers could be added down the line, but Marinelli and other senators said communication is the short-term focus of the ban’s implementation.
The senate passed undergraduate senator Matthew Popkin’s amendment to emphasize policy signs in the area in front of McKeldin Library, a location senators viewed as a smoking hub and major campus thoroughfare.
Another amendment, offered by faculty senator Daniel Lathrop, added a provision to place cigarette receptacles outside major campus buildings.
During floor discussion, Lathrop held up a bag full of what he estimated to be 300 to 500 cigarette butts, which he said he found during a 15-minute walk outside the building he works in.
Cigarette litter, Lathrop told the senate, was a prime reason to ban smoking.
“The whole business about the litter, about smoking butts, I don’t think that can be stressed enough,” senate Chairwoman Martha Nell Smith said. “I can’t stand to see all of the cigarette butts that are around Testudo.”
Transitioning to a smoke-free environment, Marinelli said, requires more awareness of the policy’s function and rationale.
According to the committee’s survey, nearly 22 percent of the campus community was “very familiar” or “extremely familiar” with the ban, while almost 48 percent was “slightly familiar” or “not familiar.”
“Because so few people, based on our survey, really had an awareness that this was coming, we recommended that we start a marketing campaign right now so that [smokers] have time to think about, ‘What am I going to do?’” Marinelli said. “We have to do a better job of communicating that it’s coming.”
Amanda Long, the University Health Center’s coordinator of campus alcohol programs, said the policy creates a health benefit by cutting down nonsmokers’ exposure to secondhand smoke.
“When you’re out walking around, you’d notice that there are pockets of areas where smoking is a big problem,” Long said. “I think we will see a drastic change in those areas where we do have high-density smokers.”
Regardless of the ban’s language or enforcement, Marinelli said she doubts smoking will ever be fully eliminated on the campus, since only about 35 percent of survey respondents said they would be comfortable with informing someone that this is a nonsmoking campus.
But one major short-term goal, Marinelli said, is to make such situations easier.
Smith said she felt her colleagues embraced the ban to varying degrees but mostly agreed with its underlying principles.
“A ban, we all sort of respond to that as, ‘Oh my goodness, it seems so far,’” she said. “But that doesn’t mean we don’t want to be known as a no-smoking campus.”