On any given day, a crowd stands by the entrance to the John C. Pace Library, puffing cigarettes and chatting. Angela Hahn is concerned.
“It’s sort of the face of the University to the population,” Hahn said. “I worry a little bit about the image we project when you have to walk through five or ten smokers who are right in front of the door.”
Hahn is a lecturer in the School of Allied Health and Life Sciences. She and fellow professor Patricia Malley co-chair the Tobacco Task Force, which is drafting a policy to prohibit smoking within 35 to 50 feet of campus buildings.
The work is one requirement of a Florida Department of Health grant the two received last year.
They will present their recommendation to the administration by the end of the semester and hope it will be adopted and implemented by year’s end.
If they are successful, Hahn said they would next pressure the University to prohibit on-campus smoking altogether.
“We’re not exactly leading this trend,” she said.
According to Americans for Non-Smokers’ Rights, at least 648 American universities have banned smoking on campus.
Among these are at least 13 Florida schools.
If UWF follows suit, there will be no more smoke breaks in front of the library for Marion Summers.
Summers, a sophomore advertising major, is a transfer student from the University of Florida.
UF recently implemented a tobacco ban. However, Summers said that few people abide by it.
“If people want to try to implement that (here), that’s cool,” she said “But I don’t know if anyone’s going to follow that rule.”
Karen Cravero, a member of the task force and president of the anti-tobacco student group STRIKE, said the response to the proposal has been mostly positive.
The task force has started a petition for more restrictive policies, which has already garnered about 300 signatures.
UWF currently follows state law in banning smoking in buildings, and smoking is prohibited within 20 feet of residence halls. Violators of the latter rule are subject to a $50 fine and a possible cleaning fee.
However, Hahn said this is not sufficient. She used to work in Building 58, where smokers often congregated near the air intake vents.
“It’s pumping it straight into the offices,” she said. “You can smell the cigarette smoke in your office.”
She said Building 36, the post office, and the campus bookstore had similar issues.
Aside from concerns about public health and image, Hahn said that banning tobacco use made fiscal sense.
“There are significant costs to the University to allow smoking on campus,” she said.
She said a ban could reduce property and group health insurance rates.
Hahn said weak tobacco policies also jeopardized the much-lauded Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design certified buildings on campus.
“One of the LEED requirements for academic institutions is to have breathe-easy zones,” she said. “The architects say ‘we’re gonna have breathe-easy zones,’ but we can’t enforce them because there is no policy to back them up.”
UWF Project Manager Jessie Mayo said the University had been aware of this deficiency for some time. However, he said he didn’t feel it was urgent because the U.S. Green Building Council, which developed the LEED system, did not perform follow up inspections once a facility was certified.
“It basically operates on an honor system,” he said.
Cravero recently spoke to the SGA Senate about the group’s goals.
Student Relations Chair Linzy Browne said she and another senator were researching the issue and drafting a bill in support of the task force’s recommendation.
Hahn has already presented the proposal to the Staff Senate, where she said it was positively received, and she said she planned to present to the Faculty Senate soon.
“We’re not here to fight smokers,” Hahn said. “We’re really here to help them and to help them overcome this addiction.”
“I understand that everyone has rights,” Cravero said, “and I understand that it’s your right to smoke if you want to, but your rights can only go as far as not causing harm to others.”