Designated smoking areas clear the air but some protest stigma

March 2, 2015

Eleanor Skelton
[email protected]

Gold and white signs stating “designated smoking areas” along with ashtrays were installed this semester, indicating exact locations where smoking is appropriate.

A committee including Ralph Giese, director of Residence Life and Housing, and Brian McPike, executive director of Public Safety worked with Susan Szpyrka, vice chancellor of Administration and Finance, reviewed the smoking policy.

“We met several times, we toured campus several times, we did a lot of research into what other universities are doing, including our sibling campuses,” said Giese.

Each administrative policy is reviewed on an annual basis.

“The policy needed to be reviewed, and we needed to look at it from a perspective of what is a healthy campus, how can we promote healthy choices while still giving people the opportunity to make choices in their life,” Giese said.

The committee’s findings indicated that most campuses were transitioning to designated smoking areas rather than a smoke-free campus.

“Boulder had tried to start that,” Giese explained, “and my understanding is that they have not been very successful in being completely smoke-free.”

All state buildings are smoke-free indoors, but a smoke-free campus would push smokers to an area the university does not regulate.

“Although we are in the middle of the city, we are not a very urban campus,” Giese said. “It would be quite a walk to send students or faculty or staff to a public sidewalk.”

The committee selected areas that were already being used.

Housing has received little feedback to date, and people are following the policy, according to Giese.

“People have been really respectful of smoking in the designated areas,” he said. “I think it’s been really successful here.”

Fire safety in a drier climate was also a concern, according to an email from McPike. He explained that the policy does not cover marijuana, which is still illegal on campus.

Facility Services installed the signs and ashtrays and removed all ashtrays from the top of trashcans.

Gary Reynolds, executive director of Facility Services, took the committee’s recommendations and created the designated smoking areas.

Reynolds explained a project manager visited the locations and created site layout. Signarama, an outside sign company, and an independent contractor built the areas.

Previously existing smoking sites only had signs added.

Due to complaints about smoking areas that Reynolds tracks, he plans to remove some areas from the Campus Services building and add a site near the Academic Office Building, which was not yet under construction when the committee originally met.

“Several [people] have said you can hardly walk out of our building without having to walk by a smoking area,” Reynolds explained.

Student reactions to the designated areas varied.

Rianne Lightfoot, a junior psychology major, thinks that removing and relocating ashtrays promotes littering of cigarette butts, especially near Columbine Hall and between the library and Osborne Center.

“They’ve covered up all the ashtrays and now there’s just cigarette butts everywhere,” Lightfoot said.

“It makes it more inconvenient,” she added. “I’m a pretty conscientious smoker, I try to be respectful of people who don’t smoke, so I would always find a place away from people.”

“But now they’ve made it more difficult to do so with the signs and I feel like it’s a little more stigmatized than it should be.”

But non-smoker Martha Cervantes, a senior studying criminal justice, is affected by secondhand smoke. Cervantes has dealt with asthma since childhood.

“I think it’s a good thing that they have certain areas at school where they can smoke because that way I know what places to avoid,” Cervantes said.

“I’d rather have them smoke in one spot than wherever they want to,” said Eric Frank, a junior in high school concurrently taking engineering classes. “They’re out of the way, most of them, so they don’t really bother me a whole lot.”