University of Utah Campus Goes Tobacco Free


Curtis Lin

Cigarette butts around the University of Utah campus in Salt Lake City, UT on Tuesday May 08, 2018. (Photo by Curtis Lin/ Daily Utah Chronicle)

By Mackenzie McDermott

Following a formal review by an ad hoc committee of the University of Utah’s Academic Senate, the U campus is officially going tobacco free. Starting July 1, 2018, no tobacco delivery system of any kind will be allowed on university grounds. Some U students see the new rule as an extra push to help them quit their habit, while others see it as an example of a misplaced university priority.

Once the policy is in place, Utah encourages students to spread the news of the rule. Repeat offenders may be referred to either the University Police or the Office of the Dean of Students.

The university has yet to cement any repercussions for violators. University Rule 3-300A: Tobacco Free Campus Revision 0 Amendment 03/08/18, assured that “no employee may be terminated for violating this Rule,” and “no student may be dismissed or suspended for violating this Rule.”

The university is not asking anyone to quit,” the U stated in @theU. “This rule promotes health across campus and simply means no one can use tobacco products on university property.”

One graduate student said being on campus is when they usually feel the urge to smoke. Taking away their ability to smoke on campus, as well as the likelihood of seeing others smoke on campus, will, they hope, help them quit.

Others are afraid that the university is focusing on the wrong problem.

U student Brooks Bergmann, who has been smoking for nearly four years, uses smoking as a way to manage depression and anxiety.

Stress is a primary cause of smoking,” Bergmann said, “and the university intentionally places financial stress on its students. From tuition hikes to overpriced food to not paying graduate students and staff enough, the university is responsible for creating the conditions that urge people to smoke in the first place.”

To Bergmann, the best way to eliminate smoking on campus is to lessen the pressures the U puts on students.

“If the university wants to play like it’s our parent, it should start by eliminating the financial conditions it perpetuates that foster those urges in smokers,” Bergmann said.

The mindset behind rule 3-300A is to promote a healthier campus and remove involuntary exposure to tobacco and secondhand smoke. With this new policy is the slogan, “No judgment. Campus is simply Tobacco Free.” Students like Bergmann still see no benefit in banning safer options such as vaporizers and e-cigarettes, which will still be allowed in on-stage artistic performances, research and cultural ceremonies.

While no one is sure what the penalties will actually be, Bergmann sees potential fines or required courses “as a way for the U to penalize and harm working-class and poor people on campus that the U already marginalizes.”

“We have to be mindful of the intended and also the unintended consequences of this initiative,” Robin Marcus, chief wellness officer at the U, told The Daily Utah Chronicle in 2017. “Some of the issues that we will need to address are specific to patient care and visitors, the sensitivity that tobacco users need not feel judged in this process [and] we need to consider tobacco cessation needs for those who wish to quit and other complicated issues.”

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