The Student News Site of Macalester College

The Mac Weekly

The Student News Site of Macalester College

The Mac Weekly

The Student News Site of Macalester College

The Mac Weekly

Mac enacts new smoking rules

By Diego Ruiz

The days of smoking by the entrance of Carnegie, under the grate outside Doty or on Bateman Plaza are over-if Macalester community members comply with the new campus smoking policy.After years of lighting up wherever they wanted to outdoors, Macalester students, faculty and staff are no longer allowed to use tobacco within 25 feet of campus buildings. The college administration changed the campus tobacco policy on the recommendation of a Tobacco Use Task Force that met throughout last semester.

While the change in policy is aimed at reducing exposure to second hand smoke, it has caused some to question whether Macalester is infringing on their personal rights and if the policy can really be enforced.

Rachel Colberg-Parseghian ’11, a self-described advocate for smokers, said she is against the new rules, and worries that they are the first step to an entirely smoke-free campus.

“If they are trying to take away my right to smoke, that’s.ridiculous,” said Colberg-Parseghian. “We’re allowed to make our own decisions and live like adults.”

Those who support the Tobacco-Free Zones outside of buildings, however, say the right to not be exposed to second hand smoke-and its deleterious health effects-should be paramount, and that the new policy is not trying to change people’s smoking habits.

“They can be guaranteed some smoke-free area,” said Laurie Hamre, the Vice President of Student Affairs. “The goal is to make a respectful environment.”

The idea for tobacco-free zones began last semester, when new public health grant money from Ramsey County aimed at making college campuses smoke-free spurred Macalester administrators to consider reforming the college’s policy.

“We hadn’t looked at tobacco policies since the state mandated no smoking in indoor workplaces,” said Denise Ward, the Associate Dean of Student Services and a member of the Tobacco Use Task Force.

A task force was formed made up of students, faculty, and staff.

After conducting a survey of Macalester community members and analyzing the data from the 1,207 responses, the task force recommended “tobacco-free zones” within 25 feet of building entrances, windows, and ventilation systems.

These restrictions are an attempt to address the ways in which people had most commonly complained of being exposed to second-hand smoke.

“When you’re a non-smoker being exposed to second-hand smoke, it can be pretty uncomfortable,” said Ward, who noted that some people were allergic to smoke.

“(25 feet) is pretty much the standard when you look at other places with smoking or tobacco bans,” said Ward.

In addition to cigarettes, the ban also applies to other tobacco products.

Both Hamre and Ward say they have received positive responses. Ward said she not “gotten a single negative email,” and Hamre said she received “emails saying ‘It’s about time’ from faculty and staff.”

What’s still uncertain, though, with students newly returned to campus, is how the new tobacco-free zones will be enforced. Ward said she hopes that students will respect the rules on their own, and that the school does not intend to have tickets or fines.

“No one wants to become the enforcer,” Ward said. “We’re asking folks to cooperate with the policy and have it be a respectful situation.”

But it’s unclear whether or not that will happen. Ellen Fitzharris ’11, said that she doubted people would change their smoking habits.

“It’s something they can say on tours, but won’t be implemented, ever,” Fitzharris said. “Are they going to tell you to move? What’s the penalty? Are they going to get out the tape measure?”

Hamre said that people smoking “23.5 feet away from buildings” wouldn’t be cited. “We really aren’t going to have smoking police out there,” she said.

Ward said persistent violators would eventually have hearings with the conduct board.

The task force also recommended phasing in a complete tobacco ban in 2013, along with concurrent smoking cessation and support programs to help people on campus to quit if they wanted to.

The survey conducted by the task force showed a near even split in opinion among the campus community on whether or not Macalester should become entirely smoke and tobacco-free.

Hamre said it is too soon to decide whether or not the new Tobacco Free Zones are the first step to a complete ban.

“I would like to see how this works,” Hamre said.

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