If you’re a smoker, you know how hard it is to find a legal place to light up. Now, add hundreds of college and university campuses to the no-smoking list, inside and outdoors.
Salem State University went tobacco-free Sept. 1. The signs say it all over campus. Whether you’re a student or a teacher, don’t light up.
“I think it’s a good thing, because a lot of people get sick from secondhand smoking,” said one student.
But smokers were hardly happy.
“I think it’s unnecessary, in all honesty. I mean, it’s our decision,” said another student.
But it’s not their decision anymore.
“The primary purpose was to provide a healthier environment on the campus,” said Dr. Stanley Cahill, vice president of student life at Salem State University.
“Do we have some people that disagree with it and would rather we didn’t make that decision?Sure. But I think by and large we’ve got a good population that are supportive of what we’ve done,” said Cahill.
Campus-wide smoking bans began just a few years ago, when research into the dangers of secondhand smoke became a game changer. Today, more than 550 colleges and universities, including the University of Michigan and Purdue University, have enacted smoke-free air policies.
In 2013, UMass-Amherst, the state’s largest university, will enact an all-out ban.
“That’s a much bigger institution than we are, and it’s just a trend across the country,” said Cahill. “They’re going to have a tough time.”
For now, it’s a bit tough-going at Salem State too. Students have taken to the surrounding city streets to light up. The town bike path that runs alongside the campus has become cigarette central. One facilities manager cleans them up every morning.
“If I had a nickel for every one, I’d retire to Boca,” he said.
“There’s always people out here. I come out here seven or eight times a day,” said one smoker. “I understand not everyone smokes. So why not make designated smoking areas?”
“Health-wise, it’s not doing anything because instead of smoking over here, they’re smoking over there. So people aren’t quitting,” said another student.
The school has instituted smoking cessation programs. But so far, there are no takers. No penalties are on the books for violating the ban. But that will probably change soon.
“If it’s somebody who just persists and persists, then I think like any other rules and regulations at the university, there’s going to be a consequence,” said Cahill.
Other smoke-free Massachusetts schools include Bridgewater State, Mass Maritime Academy, and Bristol and Cape Cod community Colleges.