By Ehlayna Napolitano and Camilla ArellanoStaff Writers
A smoking ban on the University’s academic side of campus could be the first step in an effort to install a campus-wide restriction on smoking, according to University officials.
The legislation was officially passed by President Rabinowitz early this November after a nearly unanimous vote of approval by the University faculty on October 26 and will formally take effect in the Spring 2013 semester. However, the pressure and drive for a more smoke-free campus has been in the works for much longer.
Three years ago, Chairman of the University Senate Executive Committee Stuart Bass, conducted extensive research on three-dozen unspecified universities and found that nearly all had partial, some even complete, smoking bans.
Bass, who was a main proponent in getting the policy to become regulation, initially thought it was best to table the idea of bans and instead implement several lesser limits, such as the 20 feet no-smoking buffer zone for every building.
“But we were finding it difficult to enforce,” Bass said “so we decided to take bolder action.”
Yet officials like Bass as well as Director of Health Services Maureen Houck, hope to see the policy advance even further to a campus-wide smoking ban for both North and South sides of campus. However, these advances will take some time to develop, should they become a reality at all.
“For North Campus, we have time for much more extended discussion and input,” said Dr. Herman Berliner, provost and senior vice president for academic affairs.
Berliner also cited secondhand smoke as a major reason for the ban.
“Secondhand smoke was the major reason [for passing the ban] since most people weren’t really paying attention to the 20-foot rule,” he said.
Houck noted the health dangers of secondhand and even third-hand smoking, but also recognized that nicotine is one of the most addictive drugs that exist. The Health and Wellness Center started a smoking cessation program two years ago, in which addicts are recommended certain therapy options to help them quit.
Come January 2013, any student, staff, or faculty member caught smoking on the academic side of campus will be fined. The fines remain an unspecified amount for now, but Bass assures that Public Safety will enforce them. Berliner, however, said that he believes the rule will be mainly self-enforced.
“It’s a very clear regulation...I think it’s much easier [to follow],” he said.
Raymond Greenwell, a professor of mathematics, felt that although people won’t initially follow the new regulation, it would still be effective.
“It may be ignored, but what I think tends to happen over time is that, people tend to conform to these most of the time,” he said. “Overall, the South Campus will become more smoke-free because of this.”
Students like occasional-smoker Marisa Beachdoll cannot picture it being enforced. “There is a ban in Times Square but people still smoke,” she said.
Non-smoker Lora Gerulsky is unsure of how effective the policy will be but said that it is “good for the University to take a stance and say that this not acceptable to us.”
Others students question its legality. Non-smoking student Sam Derosa said, “If smoking is still legal and there is a ban for all of Hofstra then I think that it is not fair.”
A source who preferred to remain anonymous said that he felt that the ban was not a good choice, given the history of the lack of enforcement of the 20-foot rule. He said that he likes to smoke every hour and typically smokes on South Campus, as he is a commuter.
“We’re of legal age to smoke and there’s just so many of us,” he said. “Public Safety can’t be over here where they say we can’t smoke all the time.”
Bass assured that the goal was not to infringe upon students’ rights and the main focus will be on giving counsel to those addicted. Similarly, Berliner said that the idea was not necessarily to force students not to smoke, as there will still be smoking allowed on the public sidewalks that surround the University.
“Really, we’ve maintained accessibility... If you choose to smoke, you’re welcome to do so on public sidewalks,” Berliner said.
If a campus-wide ban were to ultimately pass, Peter McCaughey hopes there will be at least a few smoking sections so that students will not have the inconvenience of leaving campus. With the Greengrove Avenue robbery fresh in their minds, others like Derosa worry about the safety of other students and professors in needing to leave campus to smoke. Greenwell similarly expressed concern over the way professors and students felt about the ban.
“I have colleagues who are still addicted to cigarettes and I hope they will still feel that they’re welcome on campus,” he said. “I’m hoping that [they] can walk out to the street just off campus and smoke there is sufficient to allow them to exercise their smoking.”
Whether or not the policy will be effective or reduce smoking remains to be seen. Either way Houck recommends for those looking to quit that the most effective way is a combination of behavioral therapy and medicine prescribed by your doctor.