WSU begins to implement smoke-free corridor

(Source: Kimber Harding) Ana Reyes’ winning submission for the Great American Smokeout digital graphic competition

The green outdoor ashtrays have been removed, and signs are being posted in the less-populated areas of the non-smoking corridor on campus as Weber State University begins initiating a campaign for the smoke-free zone policy.

After going through two years of rigorous discussions, where WSU hired experts to come in and facilitate open forums to hear both sides of the issue, the student and faculty senates passed the smoke-free policy through in November 2012. It then went to the President’s Council and the Board of Trustees before the final decision was made to make a smoke-free corridor on campus.

Student Senate President Brady Harris said he wants to implement the policy by phasing it in slowly and respectfully, so as not to shock students.

“I don’t want to just throw signs out and come down hard issuing citations,” Harris said. “I want an educational campaign that comes with the signs.”

However, signs are being posted and no educational campaign is in effect. For a policy that has been in place for several months now, no one from the student senate, faculty senate or the Environmental Issues Committee has made any effort to make students, faculty or staff aware that this policy is in place and will be enforced.

“All the people involved are fairly new to the issue, so we just need to get all those partners together again to roll out the policy,” Harris said. “It’s as much my fault as anyone else. We just need to get together again to figure it out.”

WSU Student Wellness coordinator Kimber Harding hosted the Great American Smokeout on Nov. 13, and although it brought much awareness to students, it also brought a lot of controversy.

As students began to see the winning poster of the digital contest for the Smokeout and many other entries to the contest posted around campus, some students took them as offensive and felt their rights were being violated.

“I think it is probably one of the biggest wastes of time, simply because college is supposed to get you prepared for the real world, and people smoke in the real world,” said criminal justice major Brendon Farlow. “I get that it’s for health and personal choice or whatever, but it just doesn’t seem fair to me.”

WSU freshman Rich Scott said he has been a smoker for more than 20 years and that there is nothing wrong with him or his ability to breathe, and he feels he is being pushed aside and singled out.

“I don’t have cancer; I’ve got perfectly healthy twins that I don’t smoke around because I am concerned about their health,” Scott said. “But everyone on this planet is going to die from something; it’s just the natural order of things.”

He added that discriminating against smokers is “communist social crap . . . pushing a liberal agenda to dissuade cultural diversity, and it’s a pathetic attempt at propaganda.”

For Andrea Weloth, a freshman majoring in special needs education, this is more than a discrimination issue. For her, being around smoking is a life-threatening situation.

“I am actually allergic to it. I swell up like a balloon,” Weloth said. “At the same time, I know it’s their right, but they shouldn’t be able to do it in one of the main areas where people are going to walk through. I just don’t think that’s fair to people like me who can’t breathe. We shouldn’t have to worry about that.”

Zach Otero, electronic media major, said he is on the fence about it.

“I don’t think anyone’s rights to smoke on campus should be taken away,” he said. “I think having a smoke-free corridor is a good idea; I don’t like walking through it.”

Harris said the school has no intention of pushing a smoke-free campus and that this policy creates cohesion for smokers and non-smokers.

The smoke-free corridor spans Building 4 to the main corridor between Elizabeth Hall and the Shepherd Union Building, down to the Miller Administration Building, and from between the Stewart Library and the union building to the Browning Center, which leaves many smoking areas on campus.

“I want students to know that there was two years of discussion on this and we made a lot of effort to hear both sides of the issue,” Harris said. “New students here today maybe don’t see that, but we did everything we could to gather the student input we needed to make this decision.”