By: Sarah Kirkup and Jakub Lewkowicz
Stony Brook University will be one of latest SUNY school’s to enforce a tobacco-free policy this January adding to the 42 percent of tobacco or smoke free schools in New York State recorded this year.
Nearby, Suffolk County Community College started a tobacco-free policy in July and decided to put a gradual implementation in place, so students have a way to adjust.
“It is so new and we have been doing a soft introduction at Suffolk, they have not been penalizing the people seen smoking on campus. We have started by telling them that this is a non-smoking campus and giving out fliers of our facilities if they are interested in quitting.” Agnes Hahn, a registered nurse supervisor at the Ammerman Campus of Suffolk Community College, said.
Hahn also noted that while it is still common to see people smoking on campus, people have really been trying to respect the new rule.
Public colleges are more than twice as likely to work towards a tobacco free or smoke free campus than private colleges, according to the 2015 New York State Dean’s List.
For the spring, SCCC said it is starting a system in which smokers will have to speak to the dean after two or three warnings. Hahn does not think that they are going to penalize with a ticket because the school is in recognition that this is an addiction.
A representative at the University Police at a Stony Brook Health Fair said they are still unsure how the policy will be enforced and how people caught smoking will be punished.
“There are many programs and quit lines that can help smokers stop,” Janis Hurley, a public health educator at Suffolk Department of Health said.
“A lot of students were exposed to smoking while on college campuses. The 18-20 age group has a rate of people starting to smoke,” Kathy Drea, vice president of advocacy for the American Lung Association in Illinois said. Laws that prohibited smoking in elementary and secondary schools date back to the 90’s and now colleges are planning to do the same, Drea said.
As of July 1st, The State of Illinois Smoke-Free Campus Act required public colleges to carry out a tobacco-free measure, Drea said she has not received any complaints from the affected smoking population.
The New York State Dean’s List stated that over two-thirds of the tobacco or smoke-free campuses showed very good compliance with the policy.
Stony Brook has many supporters of the policy, including some who currently smoke on a regular basis.
“I don’t really think there’s a downfall to it. It’ll be a healthier campus with clean air despite that I’m smoking now,” Alex Giresi, a senior anthropology and women’s studies double major who has been smoking since she was 12 years old said.
Others think it infringes on their rights.
“I think all smokers on campus should engage in civil disobedience and not obey this rule. The majority is just trying to impose its rules on the minority,” Thomas Kerth, a professor of German and Medieval Studies, said. Kerth has smoked since he was 16 and regularly smokes cigars at the benches outside the Humanities building. “I don’t know what the circumstances will be but I don’t intend to change my habits.”
Many CUNY and SUNY schools have seen a smooth transition as the policy gains momentum in U.S. colleges.