Opinion divided on smoke-free campus issue

International studies sophomore Eugene Marinska smokes between classes Sept. 9 in the Quad. (Photo Credit: Chris Branch)
International studies sophomore Eugene Marinska smokes between classes Sept. 9 in the Quad. (Photo Credit: Chris Branch)

By Chris Branch | LSU Student

With a growing number of the nation's colleges implementing bans on campus smoking, there is a movement at LSU to adopt a similar policy, but student opinion on the matter remains divided.

Mass Communications Prof. Judith Sylvester, a longtime supporter of a tobacco-free campus, believes a tobacco-free policy will be implemented at LSU in less than a year.

"I'm taking the point of view this will be done by next fall," Sylvester said, who has led a movement for the policy, called Smoking Words, for nearly 11 years. "Things are at a point now where it's time to do this."

More than 300 colleges nationally have banned smoking or the use of tobacco on campus, including Nicholls State University in Thibodaux. Nicholls is the first and only Louisiana public institution of higher learning to put such a mandate in place.

"We're the flagship, and we're not even the first," Sylvester said. "Not even leading the state in this."

Some students, though, feel like the band would be a violation of personal rights.

"Let's not forget that the United States has not banned smoking tobacco," said student government president Cody Wells. "To deny someone of that right is unconstitutional. "

LSU currently has a policy that prohibits smoking 25 feet from any doorway. Tiger Stadium, the PMAC and Alex Box Stadium are all smoke-free.

Sports administration senior Lindsey Febles, who smokes, said the rule would be almost offensive.

"I don't smoke on campus much," Febles says, "but I would like to have the option. I feel like it's a violation of my personal rights to tell me I can't smoke on campus."

Febles added she likes to be able to smoke if she's just had a stressful test or if she wants to take a break from studying in the library. "I love being able to smoke outside the library. It calms me down. It's not like I'm going to blow smoke in someone's face."

Other students agreed with Sylvester. Febles' fellow sports administration senior Thomas Hicks said he would support a smoking ban. "It just doesn't seem healthy to have people smoking on campus."

Currently, four Southeastern Conference schools -- University of Kentucky, University of Arkansas, University of Florida and University of South Carolina – have full bans on campus smoking.

Vanderbilt University and the University of Mississippi have bans on smoking, but have set aside separate areas for smokers to smoke.

The University of Georgia, the University of Tennessee and Mississippi State University and LSU have bans on smoking indoors on their campuses. LSU also disallows smoking within 25 feet of a building.

The University of Alabama and Auburn University have no policy prohibiting smoking on campus.

Wells doesn't' think a total prohibition of smoking rule will be in place anytime soon at LSU. "It's not going to be smoke-free or tobacco-free anytime in the near future because you can't enforce it."

Enforcement appears to be the biggest obstacle for the policy. Sylvester said she doesn't want to have severe punitive measures, such as scholarship loss or expulsion.

Febles believes the enforcement will have no traction. "It's just silly. People are going to smoke on campus."

Sylvester said a simple reminder should suffice. "If people understand it, there wouldn't have to be a great deal of enforcement."

A sticking point with administration could be money. With the university already undergoing significant budget cuts, how much money will the school be willing to spend on the project? Sylvester says she has stressed to the administration she doesn't much spent. She said Chancellor Michael Martin is not opposed to the ban.

"We're not going to tell anyone to stop smoking," Sylvester said. "We hope they can be encouraged and we want to provide some tools if they want to quit. We just don't want them to use any tobacco products on campus."