Faculty and students are holding their breath for the campus-wide smoking ban that will take place on UCF’s main campus in the upcoming fall semester.
Although the school is offering resources to educate nonsmokers and cessation workshops for smokers, not all students are onboard with the health initiative, and many are questioning how it will be enforced.
Troy Taylor, a senior studying digital media and a frequent smoker, doesn’t understand how the university will prevent students from lighting up cigarettes.
“Is it going to be fines, verbal warnings, something else?” Taylor said. “Really, I don’t know what they can do.”
Megan Pabian, a coordinator for university relations and public affairs at the UCF Health Center, said strict enforcement is not completely necessary. She emphasized the anti-smoking policy is not to hassle students but to instill a cultural norm on campus that will lessen cigarettes and smoking.
“This will cut down on cigarettes on campus while discouraging the practice on a social level,” she said.
Secondhand smoke will also significantly decrease on campus, Pabian said, noting that curbing the dangerous effects of inhaling cigarette smoke was one of the main objectives of the ban.
“I can’t tell you how many students suffer asthma attacks from someone’s cloud of smoke,” she said. “What we determined from research is that small exposure to secondhand smoke is detrimental to others’ health, and that’s why UCF is smoke-free and not tobacco-free.”
According to the American Nonsmokers’ Rights Foundation, 15 colleges in Florida will be smoke-free by the end of this year, including Valencia College and the University of Florida, totaling to 774 smoke-free colleges in the nation.
Five years ago, Pabian said, there wasn’t a single smoke-free campus in the country.
“We’ve been working on this since three years ago. It wasn’t like we could flip a switch and UCF is smoke-free,” Pabian said. “We researched other universities and checked out their practices, consulted lawyers and the legality of what we were planning and looked at research. ... It’s not to make a bunch of smokers mad. It’s not to take away students’ rights. It’s about education and making you aware that secondhand smoke is harmful.”
Charlene Cochrane, an event planner in Orange County, is well aware of the effects of secondhand smoking. Cochrane has been in school for her bachelor’s in humanities since 2008. Soon after returning to school, she was diagnosed with stage 4 lung cancer during a routine blood check.
Cochrane was shocked, not just from the lack of symptoms but also from the fact that she has never been a smoker — a fact negated by her increasing exposure to secondhand smoke at her various jobs.
With her cancer in complete remission, Cochrane will graduate in August. Although it didn’t contribute to her disease, the secondhand smoke on UCF’s campus is still an important problem to her.
“No matter where I entered a building, I had to hold my breath just to get through the front door,” she said. “You could tell there were plenty of people in class who were heavy smokers. ... I felt like they might make me go backward after all the progress I had made.”
Cochrane is in support of the policy, although she wonders if designated smoking areas were considered as an alternative. She said she wouldn’t have been affected by the smoke if it had been done in other places that people don’t walk through as often.
Taylor said he often smokes behind buildings his classes are in, and he consciously avoids doorways and courtyards.
“I recognize that it’s not everyone’s thing, which is why I try to be somewhat discreet about it,” Taylor said. “If someone asks me to put [a cigarette] out when I’m smoking in public, that’s fine with me. ... I would have been totally OK with designated smoking areas,” Taylor said.
But Pabian is not convinced and pointed out that this isn’t the first time anyone has tried to implement a designated smoking area.
“They will tell you it doesn’t work. Disney tried to do it — it didn’t work. You always have complaints of some kind,” Pabian said.
Over the summer, UCF put together several resources for students and faculty to quit smoking. The Recreation and Wellness Center offered separate six-week workshops for students and faculty, although no one showed up for the student program, according to wellness and health promotion services.
Another student workshop is planned for September. Pabian said the UCF Health Center will offer a free counseling hotline, as well as free nicotine replacement therapy through Chantix prescriptions under a doctor’s supervision. Pabian urges students to sign up for these programs and says using nicotine therapy doubles a smoker’s chances of quitting.
“We get standing ovations at orientation when we say UCF is smoke-free,” Pabian said. “Every year, students are becoming a little more health conscious.”