UF’s first tobacco-free day: No big issues

Published: Thursday, July 1, 2010 at 8:41 p.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, July 1, 2010 at 8:41 p.m.

The moist air that University of Florida students and staff breathe on campus should no longer include cigarette smoke. But even with the new campus-wide tobacco-free policy that took effect on Thursday, some are still lighting up on university grounds.

“Seeing as how this is my second cigarette today on campus and no one has said anything, I don’t think this is going to change my life at all,” said Jackson Bodiford, a 19-year-old UF film major.

Smoke billowed up from his cigarette, blending into the overcast Florida sky. People passed by, teachers, students, UF employees, but no one asked him to put it out, which is now part of the goal of UF’s tobacco-free policy: to let peer pressure help keep smokers in check.

The policy prohibits the use of any tobacco product on any UF “occupied or controlled” property and extends 50 feet past said property. Both the communication of the policy and the enforcement of it rests with “all members of the university community,” officials say. In other words, UF is counting on people on campus gently persuading smokers not to light up.

“I disagree with the cigarette policy, but I wouldn’t mind if they told me to smoke in designated areas,” said Bodiford. “In a closed environment, cigarette smoke gets trapped and I can understand where people are coming from and accept it, but outdoors smoke doesn’t really affect anybody but me.”

Bodiford said tobacco helps him deal with his high-stress student lifestyle so he doesn’t see quiting as a realistic option. He said he probably won’t quit until he’s 40 years old.

While Steve Orlando, who helped bring the policy to fruition, said people were probably still smoking, he said he thought the first day of being a tobacco-free campus went well.

“Typically if there was a major problem, I would have known about it,” said Orlando. “Overall, I haven’t heard a lot of complaints. I know there are people out there who disagree, but from an official standpoint, it has seemed to go well.”

The point of the policy is to make campus healthier, said Orlando, which is why there aren’t, and won’t be, designated smoking areas. He hopes peer pressure will work to keep campus tobacco-free.

“We didn’t approach it as an opportunity to punish people,” Orlando said. “But as a way to give people a chance to find a healthy lifestyle and make campus a healthier place for everybody.”

Less than 10 percent of the student body and faculty smoke, with less than 2 percent admitting to smoking daily, according to an anonymous random campus survey. About 54 percent of the students surveyed said they would like to quit, said Jane Emmeree, a quit counselor at GatorWell.

“The policies offer one more incentive,” said Emmeree, who also helped enact the policy. “People forget that the majority of those who smoke want to quit.”

Erin Cowan, a 21-year-old public relations major, said she’s thankful the UF campus is now one of nearly 400 campuses across the nation -- albeit the first state university in Florida -- to be tobacco-free.

“The university is not telling smokers they can’t smoke, they just can’t do it on their campus,” said Cowan. “It’s like if someone came into my home and tried to light up, I would ask them not to.”

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