Tough To Snuff

We’re nearly a month into 2011, but smoking bans have already taken center stage.

Although South Dakota’s statewide smoking ban went into effect late last year, the debate has now moved to college campuses. Two universities implemented smoking bans on January 1st, but it’s not that easy to put out the light.

The air in Marshall, Minnesota is bitterly cold this time of year. But for some students at Southwest Minnesota State, they’re happy the skies don’t include another hazy cloud.

“It’s making campus more environmentally friendly and it just makes it a more inviting place, I think,” SMSU junior Jenna Carlson said.

SMSU President David Danahar says the decision to go tobacco-free was long overdue. And as a former smoker himself, he believes it’s crucial for his campus’ well being.

“We’re concerned for our student body and our colleagues and their personal welfare and their health,” Danahar said. “And smoking or chewing is not a particularly wise thing to be doing. We’re just reinforcing something I think people already know.”

While they know about the dangers, some students say they didn’t know a ban was coming.

“If they’re trying to tell us to stop using tobacco, they should at least give us the time to try and quit properly,” SMSU junior Matt Paulson said.

Paulson says he only heard about the on-campus ban in late December.

“Most everyone I’ve talked to is upset,” Paulson said. “A lot of students feel they weren’t listened to, they weren’t consulted, they weren’t talked to. This just shocked a whole bunch of people and a lot of people didn’t even know it was happening until it did.”

President Danahar disagrees, saying both students and faculty were consulted.

“I don’t think there was a lot of real opposition to it,” Danahar said. “It’s pretty hard to oppose something which makes a lot of sense.”

Paulson, a smoker who’s currently trying to quit, says he’s already filed a petition with the administration

“Quitting smoking is difficult,” Paulson said. “Quitting tobacco use is difficult. And they expected us to just do it out of nowhere. It’s just not fair.”

Meanwhile, across the border in Madison, Dakota State University is also adjusting to its new policy. Vice President of Student Affairs Jesse Wise says the process was driven mainly by students.

“They conducted a survey, several focus groups, and they found out there was support, student support and faculty & staff support, for a smoking ban,” Wise said. “And so, they submitted the recommendation to the administration that we move to a smoke-free campus.”

Unlike SMSU, chewing tobacco is still allowed at Dakota State. But like SMSU, the reaction around campus is divided.

“A lot of students wanted it,” DSU junior Sean Johnson said. “And I agree with that completely. I mean, I don’t have a problem with smoking on campus, but where they were smoking is where the main problem was.”

“I don’t think all of the students got their thoughts completely expressed,” DSU senior Frank Wiebenga said. “Student Senate really didn’t have as big a say as I thought they would’ve in the process.”

Among the main contentions at both campuses is how exactly policies will be enforced. But, both adminstrations say they’re not trying to be punitive.

“We were very intentional to make this a policy where we were not going to have smoking police going around campus and giving citations to people who are smoking,” Wise said. “We want it to be self-enforced.”

“I’m basically leaving it up to the individuals,” Danahar said. “We’re not going to have a smoking police force or things like that, but I think people understand it’s not a healthy thing, it’s not a healthy thing to be doing in other people’s presence.”

Even though student opinion on both campuses is relatively mixed, most students believe, in the grand scheme of things, that the smoking ban isn’t that big of a deal.

“I haven’t heard a lot of things where we should get smoking back on campus,” Johnson said. “So, I don’t think a lot of people really have a problem with it. Or, if they do, they’re not really caring enough to try and sell it.”

“When I’ve walked back to my dorm after class, sometimes there will be people across the street smoking still,” Carlson said. “So, you can still smoke and go to SMSU.”

While the adjustment period is just beginning, the long-term effects of smoking bans are clear.

“I do think it is a sign that we are having a much more socially-conscious student,” Wise said. “A more health-conscious student that are attending all campuses.”

In addition to SMSU and Dakota State, both the University of South Dakota and South Dakota State have discussed smoking ban resolutions.

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