Both students and staff say they have noticed a decrease in the number of tobacco users on campus since St. Thomas’ Jan. 1 tobacco ban went into effect.
Wellness Center Health Educator Birdie Cunningham said she is pleased with the ban’s success so far, and believes that success will continue in the future.
“I haven’t seen anyone using tobacco at all, so I think it’s going really well,” Cunningham said.
Junior Jamari Wright said she has also noticed the results of the ban.
“I haven’t seen anyone smoking so it must be (working),” Wright said.
Cunningham said she believes the success of the ban is due in part to the rising popularity of similar bans at schools and businesses nationwide. She said the ban was a natural step that followed the current trend.
“I don’t think it’s a huge surprise we went tobacco free,” Cunningham said.
The ban is community-enforced, so St. Thomas students, faculty and staff are responsible for its enforcement, Cunningham said.
Students have reacted to this responsibility in different ways, from willingness to reluctance. Some, like sophomore Morgan Lyons, have decided to avoid confrontation.
“I don’t think I would personally go up to someone just because I’m not that type of person,” Lyons said.
Junior Linda Her said she is worried about the reaction her enforcement could provoke.
“That’s a kind of tricky thing,” she said. “You don’t want them to feel like you’re up in their business because, you know, sometimes people can act aggressively.”
Wright said he would be willing to speak up and enforce the tobacco ban.
“If I saw someone smoking I’d probably just be like, ‘Did you know there’s a smoking ban?’” Wright said.
For those who are more reluctant to enforce the ban, the Dean of Students office and Residence Life provide business cards that community members can hand out to policy violators rather than confronting them verbally.
The university is also providing resources for students who want to stop using tobacco including Quit Kits offered by Health Services, Cunningham said. The kits contain an array of items, such as nicotine gum.
Another option available to students is Health Service’s cessation groups. Health Services has and will continue to offer personal cessation sessions. Additionally, the office has added cessation groups that will begin this semester. Cunningham said the groups are now in the intake process for anyone who would like to sign up.
Though these resources are available, students have different opinions on whether or not their fellow classmates will try to quit.
Sophomore Jacob Liljenquist, a recreational tobacco user, said he was skeptical about the ban’s influence on students’ lifestyles. He believed the community-enforced ban will be ineffective and students will find other ways to continue their tobacco use.
“If there’s no consequences for smoking and having tobacco, people are still going to do it,” Liljenquist said.
Linda Her was more optimistic. She said her involvement in Colleges Against Cancer helped her become aware of the health risks caused by tobacco. She hopes the ban will inspire others to live a healthier lifestyle.
“I am very happy that we are trying to bring awareness,” she said.
To continue the initial success of the tobacco ban, Cunningham said the Wellness Center will host a “Quit to Win” event in April.
Rebecca Mariscal can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.