by Anne Ryman
The Arizona Republic
March 25, 2010
Outside, Amro Bissat, a 22-year-old civil-engineering major, fires up a Marlboro Lights cigarette and admits he likes the freedom of being able to smoke outdoors. It would be a hassle to leave campus or go to a designated area to smoke, he said. “I like to be able to sneak a smoke between classes.”
Within a month, student-government groups at ASU’s four campuses are expected to vote on whether they support making the university a tobacco-free campus, and the administration says it will likely accept the votes.
If ASU approves a ban, the university would join at least 381 U.S. colleges and universities that have prohibited smoking anywhere on their grounds, according to one survey. An alternative at ASU is to create smoking zones.
The push to ban outdoor smoking is part of a larger, accelerating trend, as not only colleges, but cities, companies and other institutions take steps to drive out smoking from parks, beaches or their entire premises. Indoor bans already are common.
The Phoenix area’s largest hospital network, Banner Health, adopted a tobacco-free policy on Jan. 1 that prohibits smoking or chewing tobacco on hospital grounds.
As of January, 432 cities or towns prohibit smoking in parks, including one in Arizona, Goodyear, according to a survey by the American Nonsmokers’ Rights Foundation, which tracks anti-smoking policies. Goodyear has banned smoking at its 18 parks since July as a way to cut down on litter and encourage healthy lifestyles.
Forty-five cities prohibit smoking at zoos, and 147 municipalities ban smoking at bus stops. The survey doesn’t list any bans at zoos or bus stops in Arizona.
In California, a bill was approved Monday by the state Assembly that will ban smoking at most state parks and beaches, except for campsites and parking lots. Violators could face $100 fines. If signed into law by California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, it would be the most sweeping state ban on outdoor smoking in the nation.
The movement is being driven by a growing body of research on the dangers of secondhand smoke, frustrations over litter and desires to promote better health. A 2007 study in the Journal of the Air & Waste Management Association, for example, found that, depending on wind direction and other factors, an hour’s exposure to several cigarettes at close range outdoors can be comparable to sitting in a smoky tavern.
Efforts to crack down on outdoor smokers are meeting resistance, however.
In 2007, Gilbert considered prohibiting smoking at parks within 100 feet of playgrounds and sports fields, but objections were loud, and the ban failed to win approval from the Town Council. Instead, the town put up signs at Freestone Park, one of Gilbert’s most popular parks, asking people to “please restrict tobacco usage to a reasonable distance from those around you.”
At ASU, the issue also has been contentious.
Chad Williams, a 26-year-old philosophy major who is spearheading the ban effort, declares, “There’s no right to smoke.
“Nobody is entitled to act in a way that is going to infringe upon the health and safety of another person. We’re trying to protect the health and safety of everyone,” added Williams, a former pack-a-day smoker who has helped collect more than 3,000 signatures in support of the ban.
Smokers say that lighting up outdoors is a personal choice and that they should be allowed to exercise this freedom so long as they aren’t blowing smoke on someone else. Many also object to smoking zones. Some non-smokers agree with them on philosophical grounds.
“I find it offensive that we’re going to start policing legal substances on campus,” said Alexander Falkenstein, a 22-year-old finance major who says he doesn’t smoke or chew tobacco.
ASU’s Undergraduate Student Government Senate in Tempe delayed a vote Tuesday night in favor of further study after concerns arose over whether any change should occur immediately or be phased in. The senate is expected to vote on the issue in two weeks.
Brendan O’Kelly, president of ASU’s Undergraduate Student Government, predicts there is enough momentum for some sort of change to happen.
“I don’t think people are wanting to keep the status quo at this point. Before (Tuesday), I thought they might,” he said.
ASU President Michael Crow has said that any smoking ban should be a student initiative and that, if it passed, he would be supportive. Lots of details would have to be worked out, including how the university would enforce the ban and what penalties, if any, would apply.
ASU prohibits smoking indoors and generally allows smoking outside, provided people are at least 25 feet from building entrances and vents. University of Arizona and Northern Arizona University have similar rules. Smoking also is prohibited in seating areas of Sun Devil Stadium, although people can smoke in designated areas on the concourses.
Five percent of ASU students report they smoke daily while 16 percent smoke at least once a month, according to a 2009 survey by the American College Health Association.
Most colleges prohibit smoking indoors but allow people to smoke outdoors. The 381 colleges and universities that have smoke-free campuses is up from about 260 a year ago, according to the American Nonsmokers’ Rights Foundation. An additional 78 colleges allow outdoor smoking in remote areas of their campuses.Most colleges that ban smoking are smaller institutions, although large universities that have banned smoking or have bans that will be going into effect include the University of Florida, Boise State in Idaho, University of Michigan and Brigham Young University in Utah. Smoking is also banned at all public colleges in Arkansas and all public and private colleges in Iowa.
In Arizona, at least one college bans smoking and has since opening in Mesa in 2001. Dr. Randy Danielsen, dean of the Arizona School of Health Sciences at A.T. Still University, said officials have had few problems enforcing the ban at the private, non-profit university.
Most of the issues arise when visitors come on campus and are unfamiliar with the rules, he said. If someone is seen smoking, he or she is asked to stop or leave the campus. The school doesn’t give out tickets or arrest students, he said.
In November 2006, Arizona voters passed the Smoke-Free Arizona Act, which prohibits smoking in most enclosed public places and workplaces.
Outdoor restrictions are less common. Smoking outdoors is generally allowed, provided people are at least 20 feet from doorways, although some businesses have stricter requirements. Some parks institute smoking bans during the dry summer season to cut down on the risk of forest fires.
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