Smoke-free campus policy unpopular among students

Emily Davis

WKU recently rolled out a new policy to make campus smoke- and tobacco-free, but a number of students feel the new smoke-free campus policy, which goes into effect Jan. 1, 2020, can’t or won’t be enforced properly, which will lead to no change.

McKenzie Blair, a graphic design major from Rineyville, said, “I think it’s a decent idea with very good intentions, however, I don’t know if it will have much of an impact.

“Students who smoke will continue to smoke,” Blair said. “They’ll just find a different place to do it off campus or hidden somewhere on campus.”

The lack of confidence in the policy’s effectiveness was reinforced by several more student’s opinions.

“I don’t think that this policy will be effective because of the amount of students on campus compared to the amount of people who can enforce it,” Kylie Kidd, a nursing major from La Vergne, Tennessee, said.

She later provided a bleak outlook on the new policy and its potential enforcement.

“I think forcing people to quit smoking/vaping on campus is very unrealistic,” Kidd said in an email. “There are thousands of people on this campus, and many of them smoke/vape. So to try to take that away from them and enforce it seems impossible.”

In solidarity with student’s lack of faith in the policy and the potential enforcement of it, several students expressed their lack of confidence.

“There is no way to stop them,” Catalina Rose, a geology major from Louisville, said. “I think a lot of people are going to be absolutely pissed.”

“WKU wants this policy to be enforced from a positive, compassionate approach,” Susan Pennington from the Health Education and Promotion Department said in an email. “If students see someone using tobacco products, they should “kindly approach them and ask them if they [are] aware of the tobacco policy and ask them to please comply.”

Pennington also compared this policy to the seatbelt law, which is self-enforced, implying that this is how the policy will be handled.

The university’s tobacco-free website provides a brief explanation of how WKU will enforce the policy, describing that the policy’s success will “require positive, compassionate reinforcement. With the passage of time, a tobacco-free campus will become the norm.” It also states that faculty, staff and students “all share responsibility for supporting and communicating expectations for policy compliance.”

The website explains that students cannot use tobacco or related products on any part of the WKU campus or property including the parking garages or in personal vehicles.

“We hope that friendly reminders will be enough in most cases for people to cease, but there is the option for enforcing as a policy violation,” Bob Skipper, director of media relations, said in an email.

It also seems unlikely that students will be given any kind of smoking areas to either alleviate the newness of the policy or to keep that portion of the student population from being completely unsatisfied.

The website explains that “designated smoking areas are not consistent with the purpose of this policy,” and doing so would put limitations on creating a healthy environment. “Creating smoking areas sends a message that tobacco use is acceptable,” the website states.

Some students were also concerned about the addiction aspect of trying to enforce a policy that bans very addictive products.

“Addiction is tricky, and just banning it won’t take care of that problem right away,” Blair said.

In response to questions regarding the addiction aspect of this new initiative, Skipper said, “with the proper motivation and assistance, addiction can be overcome.” Skipper also said that WKU will “point smokers to the resources available to help them overcome their smoking/vaping addiction.”

Skipper and Pennington both included the university’s website in their very similar, seemingly rehearsed responses.

The WKU website states, “WKU has resources in place for those of the campus community who want to stop using tobacco and related products and will continue to expand cessation programs.”

It also provides a link to the university’s tobacco-free website.

On this website, the resources available to students include online resource and app links, such as Freedom from Smoking Online Program, Kill the Can, Tobacco Free, QuitGuide and quitSTART.

It is still unclear how WKU is actually planning to enforce this new policy.

Opinion columnist Emily Davis can be reached at [email protected]