Whether walking from Marletto’s to Webster Hall or entering Sverdrup, it’s difficult to avoid secondhand smoke on Webster University’s campus. Smokers are often stationed around black ashtrays, getting their fix between classes or after work.
written by Alison Klinghammer
According to a hidden student profile, approximately one in four Webster students are smokers. While more and more campuses around the country are banning smoking for the sake of their students’ health, Webster continues to give students the freedom of smoking on campus — so long as it’s 30 feet from any building.
In the fall 2013 semester, senior Katie Coats brought up the subject of smoking at the Delegates’ Agenda. While Coats is not a smoker herself, she believes everyone should have the option to do so while on campus. But, Coats said she is concerned for fellow non-smokers who want to avoid the dangers of secondhand smoke.
Freshman English major Julia Shriver said that to protect those who consciously choose to remain smoke-free, smoking should be banned all around campus. She said students’ health is more important than having the option to smoke.
Giving students the opportunity to smoke when they’re asserting independence for the first time in college is dangerous, Shriver said.
“If [students] went to one of the schools that banned smoking on campus, they’re probably not going to start smoking, because they don’t want to go off campus to smoke.”
Freshman Abigail Hoffman, a smoker for over a year and a half, agrees with Shriver that having the option to smoke has made it easier for her to slip back into the habit, despite having quit this past summer.
“I see a lot of good that could come from banning smoking, because I know that if I wasn’t able to smoke here on campus, I probably wouldn’t be a smoker,” Hoffman said. “The fact that I have the option is great, but it has led me to make poor choices.”
Hoffman said she’s “always trying to quit” the expensive, time-consuming habit, but that being surrounded by so many smokers makes it difficult. For this reason, Hoffman agrees with Shriver that a ban could be good for smokers like her.
“I just feel like [banning smoking] would cause more backlash than if we just offer opportunities for people who want to quit smoking,” Coats said. “I don’t think forcing anyone to quit is ever going to work out.”
Associate Vice President and Chief Human Resources Officer Betsy Schmutz led the response for the fall 2013 Delegates’ Agenda presentation. Schmutz has since been hard at work organizing events to encourage students to quit smoking.
“We really don’t want to start fining people,” Schmutz said. “Smoking is an addiction, and I think we’ve all got to realize that.”
As a long-time smoker herself, Schmutz is working to put up a system that would support students and help them overcome the addiction. Participation in events like the Great American Smokeout, a day in which smokers are encouraged to quit, will hopefully be of some assistance.
“I don’t think anybody who is addicted to cigarettes really likes to be,” Hoffman said. “When you wake up in the morning with a cough, and you know you’re spending a lot of money on a really bad habit that’s making your teeth yellow and making you smell bad — nobody actually wants to be addicted to cigarettes.”