The president’s staff, including the Rev. Dennis Dease, passed an Undergraduate Student Government proposal that would ban tobacco use on campus Monday for final review in the fall. When the staff reviews the proposition for the last time in the fall, president-elect Julie Sullivan will have replaced Dease on the staff.
If the language and implementation plan passes the last review, all St. Thomas campuses will be tobacco-free effective Jan. 1, 2014.
According to the Star Tribune, more than 1,100 college and university campuses in the nation have already gone tobacco-free; the University of Minnesota’s Twin Cities campus Senate passed a similar measure this week. University of Minnesota President Eric Kaler told the Star Tribune that “becoming a tobacco-free campus has become an expectation rather than innovation.”
Vice President of Student Affairs Jane Canney, biology professor Jill Manske and former USG President Mike Orth presented the actionable item to the president’s staff.
“This means we are one giant step closer to a tobacco-free campus at St. Thomas,” Orth said.
Canney will draft the final legislation, and USG President Jenna Johnson said she is happy to see support of the three-year effort.
“I think that this is a significant step in promoting healthy choices in St. Thomas students,” Johnson said. “We’ll be putting together programs for students that are interested in quitting smoking as well.”
Johnson said she is not worried that students who smoke will disrupt neighborhood relations as they are pushed off campus.
“We’ll be working with different committees,” Johnson said. “We’ve been talking with neighborhood relations, so we don’t see any issues in the future with the neighbors.”
However, some St. Thomas students are not looking forward to the implementation process. As he sat with a group that was smoking hookah in the Upper Quad, sophomore Eric Anderson said meeting people while smoking tobacco products was a social catalyst for him when he first came to St. Thomas.
“Hookah circles are an essential aspect of campus life. Freshmen can meet new people in a relaxed environment that ends up turning into lifelong connections,” Anderson said.
Junior Andy Brown, who favors smoking cigars, also said he opposes a ban.
“Smoking is done outside in an open air setting and those who chew tobacco pose no threat to others,” Brown said. “I think it’s absurd that our freedoms are being quashed by health nuts.”
Yet health precautions for smokers and nonsmokers alike are one of the driving forces behind the policy change according to Johnson, and USG’s research shows most St. Thomas students are supportive of the change. Junior Emily Kindelspire said she might anticipate some “kickback” from upset students, but she thinks the change is ultimately in the best interest of everyone on campus.
“I think it’s a good step for St. Thomas to take. Personally, I hate seeing cigarette butts around, even in the planters. Even being outside the library, I have to sit here and smell people smoke,” Kindelspire said. “There might be some tension, but overall, I think people will understand that it’s a step to help people make a more healthy choice.”
Anastasia Straley can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.