A campus wide evaluation of UW La-Crosse’s smoking policy conducted last semester has resulted in the affirmation of and the increased commitment to the current policy.
The results of the examination of smoking policy have not led to any changes. Students and faculty may smoke on campus as long as they are a least 25 feet away from campus buildings. This policy is designed to allow smokers the benefit of staying on campus, but protects smoke from wafting into residence halls and classrooms. This policy also keeps high traffic entrances free of smoke.
The renewed focus on smoking policy is a result of heightened smoking awareness after the passing of the Smoke Free Wisconsin Act, banning smoking in most public buildings and work places. The evaluation was a collaboration of many different campus organizations including the Student Senate, Resident Hall Association Council (RHAC), and the Faculty Senate.
Rob Schneider, last year’s RHAC President, says that the issue presented a conflict of interests for the campus community. “For non-smoking students, the issue seems cut and dry. But it is important to recognize the importance of not infringing students rights.” Schneider continued by saying that a campus wide smoking ban would force valuable UW-L community members who smoke to leave campus on a daily basis, and therefore leave a community to which they belong.
Nick Yurk, a senior attending UW-L notes that he “met some of [his] closest smoking and non-smoking friends while at informal hookah smoking gatherings on campus.” To make students leave to smoke says Yurk “sends them the message that they are not welcome or that they are different than the other students.”
Those who advocate for a smoking ban on campus cite their freedom to a healthy learning environment. “It is important that we protect the rights of students who do not wish to be exposed to the health risks of tobacco” says former Student Senate Vice President Jason Krug. This is a valid concern as second hand smoke has been proven to have negative health implications. “It is important to find a balance,” maintained Krug.
Policy makers hope that this policy satisfies the needs of all parties and fosters respect for individual choice.