By Julia Lange
In today's world, the dangers of smoking and secondhand smoke are made very clear. That is why many campuses are enacting smoke-free policies: to protect individuals from life-threatening illnesses.
Last fall, Buffalo State College announced that it would be adopting a smoke-free campus policy. There would be two stages - soft enforcement and hard enforcement.
During the soft enforcement period, it would allow students, faculty and staff members to gain awareness of the policy. The college would also provide informational sessions on the dangers of smoking and help smokers to quit. This phase started during the college's mid-semester session in January and was supposed to last until August. Hard enforcement meant that there would be consequences for smoking on campus.
This policy was created by the College Senate's Student Welfare Committee. This committee is run by students and a few faculty and staff mentors. These people are here to protect students, and it was obvious that they believed that smoking endangered students and was disrespectful to those who try to live a smoke-free life.
The idea of a smoke-free campus, especially of those in the State University of New York system, is controversial, and is still somewhat taboo. Individuals see these campuses as public places, since they are state-run and state-funded. Buffalo State was no different when it came to this controversy.
After much debate in the Senate and in open forums held on campus, the smoke-free policy was approved and the soft enforcement phase was to begin the following semester.
It was hard to tell if the policy's soft enforcement phase was working; it was apparent there were still many individuals smoking during the spring semester, but they were just being given fair warning at this point.
However, it was discouraging to arrive on campus in August and see that nothing has changed. The smoke-free policy is not being enforced and smokers have free rein to smoke wherever they want.
Why is this policy so difficult to enforce, particularly at Buffalo State? Other schools in the SUNY system, such as the University at Buffalo and SUNY Cortland, have effectively enacted a smoke-free campus policy. In fact, most of the SUNY campuses are smoke-free and by 2014, the SUNY board of trustees will be placing a ban on smoking on all 64 of its campuses.
But that leaves us with the question: Will this statewide campus policy be effective, and will people really stop smoking on campus?
From the experience at Buffalo State, it is clear that the only way to enforce the smoke-free policy is to have consequences for the individual's action.
Julia Lange is a junior at Buffalo State College and former College Senate student chairwoman.