North Texas Daily

UNT: enforce the smoking ban or take it back

UNT: enforce the smoking ban or take it back

UNT: enforce the smoking ban or take it back
September 16
00:16 2014

Matt Wood / Senior Staff Writer

At the start of 2013, UNT administration officially implemented its plan to make the campus “smoke-free.” In a survey from April 2012, about 75 percent of the students said they were in favor of the ban. However, four semesters later, the pushback from smokers on campus is evident. As nice as that percentage sounds on paper, the sample size is, as with most UNT legislative polls, microscopic.

Only 528 students out of more than 30,000 participated — about 1.7% of the student body. Additionally, the issue was never presented in a formal vote. It was just added as a question to a student survey, which could have been easily passed over by most students in the deluge of UNT organization emails that floods their inboxes.

So there are two options from this point: UNT can actually enforce the ban, or it can stop pretending like it’s the “smoke-free” campus it keeps patting itself on the back for being. Plastering “Smoke-free UNT” everywhere is the perfect appeal for most prospective students, and especially their parents, who will be lured into thinking that there isn’t a single cigarette being puffed on campus.

The ban came with a policy of “self-regulation” enforcement, which is basically a legislative slam-dunk for the administration. It costs them no time and no money, and the ban’s failure can be pinned on the students who are expected to reprimand their peers.

“I can’t wait to take it upon myself to discipline my fellow students,” said nobody ever. Beyond looking like a sanctimonious and intolerable tattletale, it’s just flat-out difficult to approach someone cold and tell them to stop smoking. It’s even less appealing to go through the ban’s system of reporting a complaint.

If, for some ungodly reason, you feel so compelled to finger-wag your fellow students, here’s what you have to do. You’ll need to approach the student smoking and tell them to stop. If they refuse, you get his/her name, and then email or call UNT Human Resources with the name and the offense.

So I called them up. A mildly confused receptionist eventually led me to a Human Resources staff who actually didn’t handle student complaints, and wasn’t certain who would be in charge of that. She did, however, mention that if a UNT faculty member is reported for smoking, their supervisor would be contacted and discipline would be enacted.

This part, at least, is the most logical for enforcing the ban. But it seems strange that following the protocol that the ban’s policy laid out sends you to a person who has to go searching for the right official to report the offense to.

The main reason this system doesn’t work? It’s not the job of the public to apprehend someone for breaking a school policy. The unsurprising ineffectiveness of a self-enforcing policy has led to an equally unsurprising return to a pre-smoking ban campus. Especially with the gray area that e-cigarettes present, it’s becoming more unreasonable to try and contain all these policy breaches.

The answer, though, isn’t a horrifying squad of smoke police snatching cigarettes out of mouths and handing out pamphlets intended to scare smokers. As terrible as that sounds on its own, it also isn’t feasible, financially or logistically, for the administration.

UNT’s guise of smoke-free shininess is thin at best. What it needs is a recount, a resounding vote that students actually voice their opinions on. And then, if students overwhelmingly vote in favor of the ban, UNT should enforce the smoke policy. But if students are as lukewarm to the ban as they are to enforce it, UNT should repeal the smoking ban and quit flaunting the title.

Featured Image: A sign attached to the fence that surrounds the Science Research Building reminds students they aren’t allowed to smoke on campus. Photo by Joshua Knopp – News Editor

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