UF tightens rule on where smokers can light up


Published: Thursday, January 25, 2007 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, January 25, 2007 at 1:04 a.m.
Smokers have no need to panic.
University of Florida's policy implemented Monday restricting smoking to 50 feet away from all buildings will be enforced mostly by the honor system. Fines and punishments are a long way away.
Bill Properzio, director of UF's Environmental Health and Safety Committee, said that since 2002, when UF first offered individual buildings the option of limiting smoking outside, there have been very few people who have challenged the rules.
Now that the restrictions are mandatory, he said he expects a high level of compliance without any official enforcement.
But news of the policy may not have reached enough students yet for it to be effective. Groups of smokers gathered a few feet away from the north side of Weimer Hall's atrium, on the balcony outside the Reitz Union food court and on the benches just in front of Library West.
Passers-by seemed not to care.
Properzio said the 2002 rule that allowed buildings to set an outside smoking limit stemmed mostly from complaints by students and faculty in the Student Health Care Center, the College of Health and Human Performance and the Shands HealthCare areas.
A lit cigarette just outside a building, he explained, often leads to smoke getting sucked inside through windows and ventilation systems. Especially around gyms and health care buildings, the second-hand smoke was bothering a lot of people, he said.
"If you're 50 feet away, there's going to be some breeze and ventilation," Properzio said. "And most people understand that."
The policy worked well around the 44 buildings that implemented it, he said, so when the campuswide committee Healthy Gators 2010 recommended in late 2006 that the rule be extended to all buildings, Properzio and his committee agreed.
"We're not trying to be heavy-handed here," Properzio said. "If we had total noncompliance, we'd look at other options."
Properzio, who has worked at UF for 23 years, said he attributes students' acceptance of the policy to a changing culture.
"If you tried to do this 10 or 15 years ago, you'd definitely face some resistance," he said.
"Now that there's more evidence out there, people understand the risks of second-hand smoke."
Tavis Glassman, who is a health educator with GatorWell Health Promotion Services, said the new UF policy is all about setting norms. He said Florida laws have helped immensely.
"Back in the day, people smoked in classrooms, they smoked in dorms," Glassman said. "Now we couldn't imagine doing that."
The Florida Clean Indoor Air Act of 1992 prohibited smoking in all UF buildings, and laws passed in 2003 prohibited smoking in restaurants.
Though the laws were met with opposition, statistics on the Florida Department of Health Web site show that tobacco use among adults continues to decline.
Statistics released Wednesday on the GatorWell Health Promotion Services Web site conclude that the percentage of students in 2006 who had a cigarette in the past 30 days -18.8 percent - had dropped about 10 percentage points from 1999.
Glassman said the drop is "one of public health's great success stories."
Health promotion specialist Jane Emmeree said the Healthy Gators 2010 committee wants to help continue the trend by offering a variety of services to UF members who want to quit smoking.
Headed by Chris Machen, Healthy Gators 2010 is modeled after Healthy People 2010, a national coalition that was designed to help people increase their life expectancy and improve their general health.
Healthy Gators 2010 now has members from more than 40 UF departments.
The committee has scheduled a smoking cessation class for Feb. 8.
Health educators will teach students, faculty and staff about the variety of ways they can quit, and the first 10 registrants will receive a free 30-day supply of nicotine patches.
It also offers one-on-one counseling through GatorWell for students and through the Employee Assistance Program for faculty and staff, both of which are at the Student Health Care Center.
Links to other resources, like the Florida Department of Health's Quitline, which offers free telephone counseling for smokers, are available at the Web site healthygators.hhp.ufl.edu.

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