On May 31, 2008, the UMD campus went entirely smoke-free. That included all indoor facilities, the entire school grounds, and all university vehicles. For students like me who don’t smoke, this is one of the great benefits of UMD—we can walk around and appreciate that clouds of smoke won’t be blocking our airways. But is a written rule all that there needs to be to enforce the law here on campus? Apparently not. Little nooks and corners are littered with cigarette butts that may disappear under the mounds of snow but return in the springtime, which is not something one would like to see when looking out the window. Student smokers just don’t really care in general, and littering proves it well. Ever since UMD has activated the smoking ban, they have also removed all ashtrays as a sign to let people know that smoking is not welcome. This not only backfired, but it also raises the question if it was a mistake to take drastic measures in the first place. If the ashtrays were still there, there may have been a lower chance of littering on school grounds—but it defeats the purpose of the ban.
To address this issue, the campus has now posted more ban signs around UMD notifying smokers that campus grounds are not permitted for smoke breaks. This “new” action is not news to some of us at all, considering how long the ban has been in effect without being proven effective. Perhaps the school is hoping that repetition will sooner or later justify the ban, but as a student right now, I think it’s important to have a goal for the future. Students are hoping to see a difference in a school environment that stays true to its substantial objectives.
UMD is centered in a geographic location filled with nature and the school definitely takes pride in that, whereas in the cities, concrete is everywhere and trash decorates sidewalks. It’s difficult to control what goes on in the cities because the population is so large. Trying to regulate a smoking ban in a city college would most likely never happen, but Duluth is making an effort to stay true to the clean air policy. I do believe that just because the city is too big doesn’t mean the policy should be ignored—the progress takes a much longer and heavier step. It’s important that our goal in Duluth remains intact. Even though it is harder to enforce a smoking ban, it is a stepping stone toward a bigger goal.
This is not meant to shun smokers in any way. I do believe it’s fair to say that there should be an alternative place for them to go. The campus encourages smokers to go off campus, but in reality it is so much easier to step outside of class rather than sacrifice half an hour to go off campus just to smoke for a few minutes. If they’re in need a stress reliever, who could blame them? There isn’t always going to be a solution for everyone, but maybe the school might consider putting one or two ashtrays in the notorious “secret” smoking spots? It might look way prettier than a stuffed coke bottle filled with cigarettes. (Sadly, I’m sure I’m not the only one who’s seen this.)
It can be extremely difficult to please two very different groups of people and ideas, especially when there are a considerable number of smokers going up against the mighty school board, but the fact that the school is indeed paying more attention to regulating the smoking ban is a consolation, and hopefully in the near future we will see a change in tactics.
BY CINDY VU firstname.lastname@example.org
ILLUSTRATION BY JOE FRASER.