Students at 14 Pennsylvania state-owned universities will need to think twice before lighting up a cigarette on campus.
University officials are requiring 110,000 students and 12,000 campus employees to put down their packs of cigarettes and pocket their lighters when on campus.
While the campuses have enforced no-smoking policies indoors for years, the new policy states smoking is not permitted anywhere on university property, including park benches, sidewalks and overhangs.
According to Ken Marshall, spokesperson for the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education, the campus ban stemmed from state legislation approved in June which banned smoking in all public places, including higher education facilities.
“The law officially took effect on Sept. 11,” Marshall said. “Prior to that, we had a series of meetings where we discussed the new law and what impact it would have on our campuses.”
Marshall said the law consists of two components that apply to the universities.
The law states smoking is banned in any place where the public is invited and maintains smoking is not allowed at an educational facility. The Pennsylvania Higher Education System said it was necessary to comply with both the intent and the wording to enforce the ban.
“We consider our entire campus — not just the buildings — as part of the facility. We have a number of classes, events and concerts outside,” Marshall said. “It is rather impractical to institute a ban on one part of our campus one day because we are having a class and then say you can smoke there another day.”
In March 2008, the University of Wisconsin amended their smoke-free policy, which now states smoking is not permitted in indoor air space athletic facilities, residence halls, in or on the grounds of health facilities or within 25 feet of university building entrances.
Paul Evans, director of housing, said he is worried that instating a campuswide smoking ban at UW would be difficult to enforce.
“If you were to set that and say, someone is on top of Observatory Hill, and there is a strong wind that affects a student: Do we really want to go there?” Evans said. “I would not want it to be something where someone has to go around (patrolling it).”
Evans said it makes sense to ban smoking at outdoor events like football games or fairs, but watching for smokers walking to class would be nearly impossible.
According to Maureen Busalacchi, executive director for SmokeFree Wisconsin, allowing smoking in establishments is problematic from many standpoints.
“Everyone has the right to breathe clean air,” Busalacchi said. “It does not matter where you live, what your politics are … most people agree everything should be smoke-free.”
According to Marshall, those who decide not to adhere to the ban could incur a fine of up to $200, but the university will work to educate smokers before resorting to penalties.
“We are hopeful [the ban] will improve the health of the smokers that may quit, but also those that may have to put up with secondhand smoke,” Marshall said.