If student government [SG] has their way, there will be no smoking allowed outside residence halls.
Last Wednesday, SG passed a bill to implement a 25-foot non-smoking buffer zone around the five University of Miami residence halls.
The bill must still be approved by Dr. Pat Whitely, vice-president for student affairs.
“I hope this bill will be accepted well,” said Mike Johnston, SG president. “I’ve spoken with both smokers and non-smokers and the general consensus seems to be that no one wants to be exposed to anyone else’s second-hand smoke.”
“Students have been complaining about this issue for some time. We also hope residents understand that we are just trying to promote wellness and have the best interest of all students in mind,” said Janet Tiberian, assistant director for student wellness. “Second-hand smoke is a health hazard for smokers and non-smokers alike.”
The bill also provides for covered seating areas for smokers at the perimeter of these buffers. These areas will be designed by a committee created specifically for this task by Whitely once the bill is approved.
A group of Hecht residents are planning to organize a petition against SG in order to ensure that the freshman voice is heard in elections.
“The student government that voted this bill into action only had representatives from last year’s elections,” said freshman Serwat Farooq, who is organizing the petition. “This is not a democratic process because the freshman vote was not counted.”
“This is going to be just another one of these wishy-washy policies,” Farooq said. “Ninety-nine percent of the rules on this campus are not enforced anyway.”
“I believe that the people living in the residential colleges should take a vote on this particular smoking issue,” freshman and fellow petitioner Lee Ann Biddle said. “These are the people that are directly affected.”
According to Johnston, SG senate meetings are open to the public and everyone is welcome to come and voice their concerns.
“We can’t stop student government just because elections haven’t occurred,” Johnston said.
STRIKE, Student Tobacco Reform Initiative, Knowledge for Eternity, is a student-based program funded by the Florida Department of Health as part of the tobacco settlement money resulting from the state’s lawsuit against Big Tobacco. If the bill gains final approval, the organization will be working with Whitely and SG on the development of the new buffer zones.
“We encourage smokers to work with STRIKE because it helps us understand their perspective,” said Caitlyn Fantauzzi, student coordinator of STRIKE. “We should all be working together to find a solution.”
Other schools throughout Florida and the United States have already implemented similar policies.
“UF has a 50-foot buffer zone around all of its buildings,” Fantauzzi said. “Relatively speaking, 25 feet is not that far of a distance.”
“We have to remember that residence halls have a mass of people who share the same entrance,” Fantauzzi said. “Students living in these areas should have the choice to decide whether or not to breathe in smoke as they enter and exit these buildings.”
“We want this to be fair to everyone,” Johnston said. “Currently, those entering and exiting the residence halls can’t really avoid the smoke clusters that linger in the air because of the humidity we have here.”
Students throughout campus had mixed opinions regarding the new bill.
“When I used to live at Stanford I remember walking outside and getting bombarded by smoke,” sophomore Robin Young said. “There are reasons behind why we don’t smoke.”
“I don’t like it when people blow smoke in my face,” Krista Richman, a resident of Hecht said. “I don’t like smelling it.”
Student smokers, however, feel that their rights are being violated.
“Although I respect the rights of non-smokers, I don’t think it’s right to segregate smokers from everyone else just because we smoke,” said sophomore Carlos Ramos. “I am very angry that student government is actually doing this.”
“This whole thing is ridiculous,” said Dara Solomon, a resident of Hecht. “Every college campus I’ve been to not only lets you smoke outside, they also sell cigarettes.”
“It doesn’t really matter where you put us; people are still going to walk by us anyway,” she said.
The reasons why some students agree with the bill range from health concerns to aesthetics.
“I have asthma and I don’t usually sit outside in the patio because it’s too smoky,” Alexandra Zigann, a resident of Mahoney/Pearson said. “The fans out there help but it still gets really bad when there are 20 people smoking at the same time.”
“In the morning on my walk to class, I see cigarette butts on the ground all over the patio,” Vanessa Catudio, a resident of Mahoney/Pearson said. “It makes the place look disgusting.”
For information on how to contact STRIKE, e-mail Janet Tiberian at email@example.com, contact student government at UC214 or call 305-284-3082.