Students recently attempting to purchase cigarettes at the student store might have been surprised by the lack of variety available. As the first of numerous planned changes to Portland State’s smoking policy, the student store no longer sells tobacco products, and as of Tuesday afternoon, only a couple packs of Nat Sherman cigarettes were left.
Committee recommends more campus smoking regulations
Students recently attempting to purchase cigarettes at the student store might have been surprised by the lack of variety available.
As the first of numerous planned changes to Portland State’s smoking policy, the student store no longer sells tobacco products, and as of Tuesday afternoon, only a couple packs of Nat Sherman cigarettes were left.
After complaints were made to the University Safety Committee regarding on-campus smoking and tobacco use, the Smoking/Tobacco Use Sub-Committee was formed, with Student Health and Counseling Centeroutreach coordinator Gwyn Ashcom as committee chair.
“There’s definitely other campuses that are becoming tobacco-free,” Ashcom said. “Since it’s something that hasn’t been advertised, I think it’s mainly the message that we’re sending that we’re not taking money from big tobacco.”
Ashcom also said that the University of Oregon and Oregon State University already have policies in place forbidding the sale of tobacco on campus.
The committee compiled and released a comprehensive report evaluating university smoking policies on Wednesday, Oct. 10 that includes data from a survey on smoking-related issues from more than 2,000 respondents and lists several recommendations for substantive changes to the university smoking policy.
The report’s recommended changes are expected to be included in a rough draft of a new campus smoking policy, which Ashcom said should be released sometime this year.
Many recommended changes involve creating smoke-free zones on campus, including banning smoking from the pathways between Smith Memorial Student Union (SMSU) and Neuberger Hall, and between SMSU and Cramer Hall.
The report also recommends banning smoking from in front of the library and improving anti-smoking signage. Ashcom said that the committee is talking to the Facilities and Planning department about building smoking shelters.
“I wasn’t that surprised by the complaints,” Ashcom said. “We already had an idea of where the problem areas were.” She added that she would like to see the Urban Center Plaza become smoke-free in 2009, when the new recreation center opens.
Additional changes could include increasing the distance a smoker must be from doorways and windows from 20 feet to 25 feet, which would bring PSU up to LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) standards. The LEED Green Building standards are a national rating system and benchmark for green buildings.
“Our main focus was to discover how we can eliminate secondhand smoke,” Ashcom said. “We’re not rushing this process. We’ve been looking at it for two years.”
According to the survey, 213 of the 669 comments recommending courses of action called for a campus-wide smoking ban, while 245 respondents were not in favor of a ban.
Many student smokers polled recently at the high-traffic passageway between SMSU and Neuberger Hall hadn’t heard of the report or potential upcoming policy changes.
Eric Thomas, a PSU alumnus, regularly uses the campus library to continue his studies.
“I think it would be totally unfair because there’s a significant portion of the population that smokes,” Thomas said, referring to the potential ban on smoking in problem areas. “They have to put a [smoking shelter] into place before they act on it.”
Chemistry major Crystal Anderson was taking a cigarette break before a test and said she didn’t think a smoking ban is a bad idea. She said she supports the statewide ban on smoking in bars that will take effect in 2009, and that she doesn’t like the idea of the university spending money on building smoking shelters.
“I really don’t smoke that much,” Anderson said. “I think it will make some people stop. I can deal with it.”
Theater Arts department chair Sarah Andrews-Collier said she was concerned with some of the language in the report that recommends banning tobacco use from all theater productions.
One goal, according to page four of the report, is to “set a goal to eliminate the use of actual tobacco products in PSU theater productions.” Further, on page 33, the report states: “Some faculty within Theater Arts use tobacco products for artistic performances [for brief periods]. The committee recommends a complete transition to alternative props to eliminate tobacco use in all productions.”
“My response was that it doesn’t seem quite collaborative,” Andrews-Collier said. She said she was concerned no one in the department had been included in forming the recommendation and called it a First Amendment issue. Andrews-Collier has already engaged the committee on the matter.
“I plan to do something to get this language changed,” she said. “They’re using a very sort of narrow viewpoint. A lot of this is about communication. That is really a communication breakdown.”
Andrews-Collier said that for the most part, theater productions already use herbal cigarettes when smoking is called for, and successfully navigate a variety of safety issues including the use of unloaded guns and fire on stage during productions.
“We’ve been self-policing for 30 years on this issue,” she said.
For more information on PSU’s current smoking policy, visit www.fap.pdx.edu/safety/policies/smoking.htm.