Student org tries to 'clear the air' with smoke-free petition

By Patrick McGoldrick
On March 22, 2013

 

A student group at UNH is trying to clear the air. Substance Awareness through Functional Education is inviting students to sign an online petition to ban smoking on the UNH campus. Since its inception on March 5, the petition currently carries 109 student signatures.

The petition - per its website's description - is not so much attempting to remove smoking from campus in itself, but rather to "gauge the community's support on this issue (on-campus smoking)."

"At this time, while we are aware that other schools are considering (or have implemented) such bans, our focus is more likely to be on education rather than prohibition," said Mark Rubinstein, vice president for student and academic services

UNH already bans smoking within a 20-foot radius of any on campus building.

"Kids don't really smoke anymore," said freshman Marc Romano when asked his take on the petition. "If they banned smoking I don't think anyone would notice and no one would stop, anyway." 

As of Jan. 2, roughly 1,129 college and university campuses nationally have banned on-campus smoking, indoors and outdoors, according to no-smoke.org. No-smoke.org cites a rapid trend in on-campus smoking bans, whereas only 530 campuses were 'smoke-free' in July 2011. New Hampshire currently does not have any 100 percent smoke-free college campuses. Massachusetts has 14 smoke-free campuses, while Maine has five - all of which do not permit any tobacco substances at all, according to the American Nonsmokers' Rights Foundation.

Advocating curtailing on campus smoking, UNH Health Services hosted "UNH Kick Butts Day" on March 20 and 21 in the MUB food court. Kick Butts Day was advertised on Health Services' website as a "national day of activism that empowers youth to stand out, speak up and seize control against Big Tobacco." Those who attended the event were gifted a free "Quit Kit" containing advice and information on quitting smoking and a chance to talk with a SAFE peer educator about tricks to kick the habit. The event was aimed not just at students who are trying to quit or 'kick' the habit but also at elected officials, demanding legislation to snuff out cigarettes once and for all.  

"There's always people smoking outside of Ham Smith," said sophomore Justin Slattery. "But I don't think it's really a campus problem. People should be able to do what they want."

Kick Butts Day, while advertising the smoking ban petition, outlined the detriments of smoking in New Hampshire, citing that "smoking kills more people than alcohol, AIDS, car crashes, illegal drugs, murders, and suicides combined," as 1700 adults die each year in New Hampshire due to smoking, according to Kickbuttsday.org. 

The quads of UNH are not exactly teeming with smokers - some students see smoking cigarettes as a social practice, not a habitual one.

"I don't think I know anyone who smokes on the reg," said sophomore Peter Mancuso. "I do know kids that only smoke on the weekends, though, like when they drink, but that's it." 

If a smoking ban were to be pursued, a petition would only be the start, having galvanizing power but no legal feasibility. Rubinstein said an issue of this nature should be raised through the "university's representative structures including the undergraduate and graduate Student Senates, the Faculty Senate and the PAT, OS and EE Councils... (as a) more productive avenue" as opposed to signing a petition. 

The smoking ban petition received 70 signatures in the first two days of its posting, but in the 24 days since, it has received only 39 additional signatures. Perhaps the push to rid tobacco has quickly fatigued like a chain-smoker jogging.   

Brooke Warren, who was the first to sign the smoking ban petition, was unavailable for comment. 


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