North Texas Daily

Campus ban wanes for some student smokers

Campus ban wanes for some student smokers

Campus ban wanes for some student smokers
November 26
08:55 2013

Elvia Limón / Contributing Writer

Austin Brock stood in a parking lot on the side of Clark Hall with two friends, one of them with a cigarette in his hand, the other talking to Austin about his day. It took only a few minutes before they all lit their own cigarettes, sharing a lighter in the endeavor.

They all exhaled puffs of white smoke. Soon, a fourth student, wearing bright yellow pants and a blue tie, ran across the street and started smoking a cigarette at the other end of the parking lot. Minutes later, 18-year-old psychology freshman Matthew Mondon joined Austin’s group.

“Yeah, there is a lot of confusion about the no-smoking policy,” Mondon said. “I don’t mind coming out here and smoking, but I know it can be a hassle for other people.”

The small parking lot next to Clark Hall belongs to a nameless apartment complex, which is not university property. Here, smokers feel safe to inhale without the fear of getting caught by UNT officials.

On Jan. 1, 2013, UNT implemented a no-smoking policy that applies to all UNT students, faculty, visitors, contractors and subcontractors. Some students find the policy unclear and unenforceable and others openly rebel in the face of the policy, smoking on campus anyway.

“Sometimes people pass by here and say ‘I hate that they can smoke here,’” kinesiology freshman Brock said as he took a drag on his cigarette. “I mean, there is nothing I can do. This is where we can smoke.”

Since the ban, some smokers have developed a sense of community, a friendship strengthened by smoking, at night and during the day, either openly or at places such as the parking lot near Clark Hall or more secretively on campus.

“I met most of my friends so far [at the parking lot]. I knew this was one of the places to smoke during orientation,” said undeclared freshman Makenzie Ross. “There will be up to 20 people here to smoke and to chill.”

According to the UNT website, President V. Lane Rawlins said the smoking ban was not intended to get students to quit smoking, but to protect the general welfare of students. Even though students are constantly reminded of the ban by bright-white lettered signs posted throughout campus that say, “Smoke Free UNT,” the policy might not be as successful as originally planned.

Cigarette butts are still across campus and people still smoke in hidden areas, as well as in front of the library and other campus buildings in plain sight of other students.

“[People who smoke] don’t sneak around, they are blatant about it,” said theatre arts freshman Jose Rodriguez, who supports the no-smoking ban. “I just had a guy walk out of Willis Library light up a cigarette and blow some smoke at my face.”

Because the no smoking ban is only a policy and not a law, the UNT police do not enforce the ban even though some students think otherwise, spreading rumors about the police issuing tickets and imposing fines.

The dean’s office is responsible for penalizing any student caught smoking throughout the smoke-free campus.

“The campus police department, if they see you smoking, they will write you up,” said biology freshman Trenton Hardy. “I heard that. I mean, I had one get on to me. We were lighting up, and a cop stopped us. He didn’t give us a ticket or anything, but he said that some cops will enforce that.”

But UNT Communications Officer Ana Rodriguez said that is not true.

“[Hardy] might have gotten written up for something else, or given a card that says we made contact, but not a citation,” Rodriguez said. “Student Affairs and [Human Resources] are in charge of enforcing the smoking policy, and what they do after that, I don’t know.”

UNT Administrative Coordinator for the Dean of Students Josh Ballard said that there is no monetary punishment for being caught smoking on campus.

“If they are caught smoking for the first time, they will receive a letter just saying that they are on conduct probation,” Ballard said. “Level one of the probation is not so bad, but once you get to level two or three it might affect students from studying abroad or joining volunteer opportunities or being an Emerald Eagle.”

To help students adhere to the ban, students can quit smoking outright, and UNT will assist with that process. The Health and Wellness Center offered two Quit Smart classes titled, “Ready to Quit?” at the beginning of the year for a registration fee of $37. Each class consisted of three 90-minute sessions.

While those were group classes, individual counseling is also available through the Counseling and Testing Center.

The UNT pharmacy also sells nicotine patches for students ready to quit.

“It’s a habit,” Hardy said. “I’m not saying it is a good habit. I would also like to quit, but it is what it is, and people are not going to stop.”

Despite these smoking cessation programs, as well as the confusion and the misinformation about the policy, no one at the parking lot next to Clark Hall wants to quit.

Certainly not Trenton Hardy, who lives in Victory Hall and said he keeps coming back to Clark Hall because he enjoys the company.

“There is nowhere to smoke over there,” he said. “I’d rather come over here where there are people to talk to instead of just wasting gas riding around smoking alone.

Feature photo: A group of UNT students smoke next to Clark Hall at night. Although UNT campus is smoke-free, the rule in place is only voluntary as stated in the smoke-free campus policy overview. Some students continue to smoke discreetly on campus. Photo by Elvia Limon / Contributing Photographer

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