Campus-wide smoking ban begins today

The use of any tobacco products is prohibited in an effort "to help people live healthier lifestyles."

A cigarette smoker, who asked not to be named, smokes on the University of Florida campus Wednesday, June 30, 2010. A campus wide smoking ban goes into effect today, Thursday, July 1, 2010.

Doug Finger/ Staff photographer
Published: Thursday, July 1, 2010 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, June 30, 2010 at 10:32 p.m.

The health-conscious have yearned for it, those resistant to breaking the habit have murmured against it and now the 19 newly placed signs stretching across campus announce its arrival.

Today the University of Florida becomes a tobacco-free campus.

The policy, which was approved last year by a board of various faculty and staff, prohibits anyone - including visitors - from using any form of tobacco products while on the UF campus. That includes cigarettes, cigars, pipes, chewing tobacco and electronic cigarettes.

The campus ban serves as a final step to what has been a gradual process. Last fall, the University Athletic Association banned tobacco from Ben Hill Griffin Stadium. In November, Shands and the Health Science Center implemented the policy with the opening of the cancer hospital.

Now, all campus buildings will be tobacco-free, including those UF buildings off the main campus, such as the Eastside Campus on Waldo Road, P.K. Yonge Developmental Research School and Shands HealthCare facilities in both Gainesville and Jacksonville.

"Contrary to popular belief, we're not trying to punish people," said UF spokesman Steve Orlando, who was on the board that approved the ban last year. "We're just trying to help people live healthier lifestyles."

Those caught using tobacco products on campus will be reminded of the university's policy and advised to stop, Orlando said. Offenders who choose to disregard the policy may be subject to disciplinary action by department supervisors or the Dean of Students Office, although Orlando pointed out that violators would have to be blatant to warrant disciplinary action.

Florida Bridgewater-Alford, the director of UF community outreach who is spearheading UF's Tobacco-Free Campus initiative, said the university is not turning a cold shoulder to smokers, pointing out the efforts by GatorWell and UF's Area Health Education Centers to provide cessation classes and resources to faculty, staff, students and their families at a reduced cost or no cost.

Others, such as Jeff Melendi, a history senior at UF, see the university's health crusade as an annoying inconvenience.

"If they're not going to hand out tickets or give out fines, then what is it, a show?" asked Melendi as he puffed away on a Marlboro. "I understand trying to maintain a healthy image, but sitting in your car in the darkest part of campus spitting dip in a cup isn't bothering anyone."

Melendi, who smokes between half a pack and a pack a day, said he understands where the university is coming from with its efforts to combat second-hand smoke, but he believes that designating spots on campus where tobacco users can go would be a better idea. However, according to Bridgewater-Alford, there are no plans to have designated areas for tobacco users.

While university officials are hopeful that the tobacco ban will have a positive impact, Melendi said he believes it is too soon to predict what the new policy will mean in the long term.

"I think it's going to be really amusing to see how this all plays out," he said.

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