(Photo by Preston Zubal)
With only one opposing vote, the ASUU Senate passed joint resolution 14 that could make the U a smoke-free campus.
Sponsored by Sen. Ryann Cooley and Rep. Kevin Shields, the bill calls for a task force of 10 to 15 students and faculty to examine tobacco policies at the U. The group will survey students and draft policy recommendations to be approved by the ASUU legislature next Fall Semester, which may include banning all smoking, creating designated smoking areas or not instituting any changes.
The Assembly amended the bill on April 14 to include a referendum — similar to an ASUU election ballot — for students to vote on next year. The Senate approved these changes Thursday night with 12 in favor, one opposing and one abstaining (with three senators not present at the meeting to cast a vote). It will now go to U President David Pershing for a final approval or veto.
Madison Black, current ASUU vice president, who spoke in favor of the resolution before the Senate, is confident the U will implement the bill.
“Tobacco is unhealthy, and there’s a movement toward making our air cleaner, making our bodies cleaner,” she said. “I think it’s great that we’re putting it in our hands and students’ to help progress the university forward.”
But Sen. Andy Moyle, the one opposing vote, is not as assured. He said the bill’s first draft — which called for an outright ban of all tobacco products, as well as e-cigarettes — shows different, and perhaps underlying, intentions behind what’s included in the most recently passed version.
The line Moyle referred to previously read: “In order to promote the betterment of health on campus, we support the University of Utah reexamining our current smoking policy to ban tobacco throughout the entire campus, which includes the residence halls, lower campus, auxiliary services and health sciences.”
Additionally, the task force outlined in the original draft was intended to enforce the no-smoking ban and “make this policy change as
comprehensive and effective as possible.”
The task force from the accepted version of the bill is instead going to collect data on student opinions.
“I don’t think there’s any harm in initiating more research,” said Sen. Eric Leishman, who voted in favor of the legislation.
One potential problem, however, is bias. Stephen Alder, Academic Senate president and chief of the Division of Public Health at the U’s School of Medicine, will lead the committee, which will also include health officers from U Health Care, among others. Sen. Cindy Chen said the group, weighted with medical professionals, needs to include students with “different points of view” to offer balanced perspectives.
Black said anyone wishing to be involved could email Alder at email@example.com to potentially serve on the task force.
“It’s not like there’s an application process,” she said.
There will also be an email account set up for anyone to send comments about the potential changes. And some students have already contacted their college’s representatives to do so.
One student wrote: “I strongly agree with the smoke-free campus! I’m glad this student body is doing something about it. I personally get terrible headaches when I smell smokers and second-hand smoke.”
Another said: “I believe that to restrict activities on a state campus beyond the scope of state law is a gross overstep of authority … I believe that this resolution should be rejected and forgotten.”
The U currently follows Utah Clean Air Act guidelines which prohibit smoking inside buildings and within 25 feet of entrances. According to a 2011 study by the U’s Center for Student Wellness, this applies to the 4.99 percent of students on campus who consider themselves habitual smokers.
If the U does ban smoking, it will become the third university in the state to do so, following BYU and Dixie State University, and the fifth in the Pac-12, after ASU, University of Oregon, Oregon State University and UCLA.
The smoke-free policy at the U, if decided upon, would be enforced by an honor code similar to UCLA’s, where students informally pledge to follow the rules. Black said she’s looked at these schools and considered policies for the U for more than a year.
“I know this issue is really controversial,” she said. “This is not just something we threw together last-minute. We’ve been having conversations with administrators about what’s the best way to go through with this issue.”