Last term, Student Senate conducted a survey on student opinion of smoking on campus. Though the results have yet to be released, the results will help Senate decide whether student opinion stands behind changes in on-campus smoking policy.
The Student Senate Campus Life and Health and Wellness Committees created a survey intended to determine the student body’s attitude about the issue. No specific policy will be enacted solely on the basis of the results; rather, the survey results will be one of several things taken into consideration.
“Right now it’s all just data gathering,” sophomore and Campus Life Chair Tevin Liao said. “We’re trying to see if this is something that is suitable for the campus.”
Liao stressed that a campus-wide smoking ban is unlikely in the near future. However, such a ban is a long-term goal.
“There is a goal for a smoke-free campus, but there is no plan. It’s kind of like the ideal versus what’s actually going to happen,” Liao said.
There may also be new restrictions short of an all-out ban. Rather, they may consist of prohibiting smoking in certain places, or even just enforcing existing restrictions more strictly, such as those prohibiting smoking within 15 feet of building entrances. Students and faculty are often seen smoking in doorways, especialy in colder temperatures.
This smoking survey follows a significant trend in recent years in American colleges and universities to restrict on-campus smoking. There are currently about 461 colleges in the United States with smoke-free campuses, including 15 in Illinois. Knox would be the first school in the Associated Colleges of the Midwest (ACM) to issue a smoking ban if it decided to enact one. Last summer, Illinois Governor Pat Quinn signed a law banning smoking on all public university campuses. The law will take effect in July 2015, and will create smoke-free campuses on at least six four-year institutions with no previous ban.
There are two possible motivations for restricting smoking on campus: to protect nonsmokers from secondhand smoke and to discourage smoking. National anti-smoking organizations, like Americans for Nonsmokers’ Rights (ANR) and the American Lung Association, cite both of these rationales for supporting campus smoking bans.
According to a 2015 report by ANR said, “The tobacco industry continues to market and advertise its products to young adults in order to maintain its profitability, and the tobacco use and prevalence statistics for young adults demonstrate that the plan is having an effect .… Curbing tobacco influence on campuses could prevent a new cohort of lifelong smokers.”
Both of these rationales are also present in discussions of smoking at Knox, but the protection of non-smokers plays a larger part.
“It’s more to protect nonsmokers than it is to discourage smoking,” Liao said. “But there’s definitely presence of both.”
Senior Jake Maryott, who recently quit smoking, understands these arguments but would be against a campus-wide ban.
“I am not in favor of having a smoke-free campus, but I am in favor of having stricter policies about smoking near buildings because I’ve noticed that some students smoke just a few feet from doorways,” Maryott said.
Senior Stephen Ford, a smoker, understands that secondhand smoke can be harmful and is not opposed to restrictions on smoking for this reason.
“I’m okay with the idea of having a smoke-free campus,” Ford said. “Secondhand smoke really does harm people. Even though I’m a smoker myself, I understand the importance of having these regulations, because it really isn’t a good environment for a lot of people, I just enjoy it myself.”
However, Ford is uncomfortable with the idea of smoking bans with the purpose of discouraging smoking.
“I just don’t think you should protect people from themselves,” Ford said.