Students react to possible campus smoking ban
(KFVS) - Smokers are allowed to light up in fewer and fewer public places, and now that might include some college campuses.
Now, Southeast Missouri State University students are taking an online survey to find out if the campus should eliminate smoking areas.
The current tobacco policy on SEMO's campus bans smoking except in designated areas. That includes electronic cigarettes, pipes and cigars.
Following in the footsteps of other Missouri institutions, Southeast is asking for student input on enforcing and maybe updating the policy.
Joseph Haupt is a junior at Southeast. He's also a smoker. He took the survey because he thinks a smoke-free policy is just unfair.
"It's kind of inconvenient if you can't smoke anywhere on campus," Haupt said. "If you have to be here all day to go to class."
For sophomore Julie Buckles, the problem is enforcing the current policy.
"Well I don't really think that the policy is enforced any more or if it ever was," Buckles said. "I'm not a smoker and I don't like being around smoke so if it could be enforced better I would like that."
Buckles said it's common for students to smoke while they walk to class and as a non-smoker that bothers her.
"I don't know if other students feel the same way as me," she said. "And I don't know how big of a smoking population we have here."
A 2013 Missouri College Health Behavioral Survey shows she's not alone.
According to the survey 47 percent of the 3,500 students sampled think the SEMO campus should be smoke-free.
The survey also shows about a quarter of SEMO students are smokers.
"I personally think that would be a positive change for us. So it wouldn't affect students who don't smoke," said Buckles when asked about the possible smoking ban.
Vice President for Finance and Administration Kathy Mangels says along with promoting a healthier campus, a ban would create a cleaner campus.
Haupt said simple improvements to the smoking areas could be all the change they need.
"I think the way it is now is fine. I don't really see a problem with it. I think if they improved the actual smoking areas people would be more inclined to use them," Haupt said.
School officials say they've gotten good feedback from students so far.
The survey is available through February 26.
Results will then be reviewed and the Administrative Council will get a recommendation on how to proceed by April 1.
In Illinois, a bill going through the General Assembly would ban smoking on college campuses in that state.
Smoking has long been banned inside all campus buildings, including residence halls and within 15 feet of building entrances, exits and windows. But a bill gaining support is hoping to clear the air for every public college campus in Illinois.
State Representative Ann William is sponsoring the proposal.
Under the bill, any state-supported university or community college must form a task force charged with implementing the smoking ban and using disciplinary actions as it chooses.
Some students including smokers and non-smokers, say they like the idea but others worry that it might make taking a break more complicated for those who are on campus all day.
"I feel like it is a safe idea, but it is also kind of annoying," said Whitnie Ash.
"It seems like it is a little bit extreme, but I think it is a good thing for the majority of the people," said Nick Abel.
"I think, I would be pretty frustrated and want a cigarette even more," said Rachel McIntyre.
At least 1,130 colleges and universities have banned all smoking on campus, according to the American Nonsmokers' Rights Foundation.
The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign is the only state school in Illinois that is completely smoke-free.
Illinois State University has a partial ban already in place.
The measure now heads to the full house for further debate.
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