Students Help Enforce a Smoke-Free Campus
For two years, UMD has been a smoke-free campus. One student group has helped significantly in creating this ban and also keeping it enforced throughout the campus. The Student Health Advisory Committee (SHAC) is a student group sponsored by UMD Health Services that works on health related issues around campus. One of their major projects is the Breathe Free campaign that kicked off last spring semester 2010.
The student/staff volunteers are called Breathe Free Supporters. Kristy Seaver, a senior majoring in community health, has been involved in the Breathe Free campaign from the start. “Our main goal is to make people aware of the smoking ban and have them abide by it to keep UMD smoke free and prevent the effects from second-hand smoke,” Seaver said.
The policy prohibits smoking everywhere on campus; this means all indoor facilities, campus grounds and all vehicles on campus, including your own personal vehicles. Smoking near the Kirby Bus Hub comes with a hefty fine of up to $1,000.
A survey was conducted at UMD in 2009 by the American College Health Association survey to measure the amount of smoking over a 30 day period. According to that survey, 58 percent of students did not smoke at all during those 30 days and almost five percent of students smoked every day. The Breathe Free campaign is focused on those five percent of students who smoke on a regular basis.
When the smoking policy was initially introduced, it received mixed reactions. However, Seaver believes that more people are beginning to feel the positive effects of the policy, with the awareness the Breathe Free campaign has brought forth.
“Many smokers don’t understand why UMD is smoke free and they feel that they have a right to smoke anywhere, but I also have the right to breathe clean air,” Seaver said. “Sometimes smokers don’t realize how many people are affected by their habit or how far and how quickly the smoke can spread.”
Even though the policy was instituted in 2007 in the residence halls and went campus-wide in 2008, it operated under a peer enforcement model until the initiative to have Breathe Free Supporters started last spring.
One noticeable difference, even from just a few months ago, is that many of the "smoking hot spots" have dissipated around campus. The amount of smoking on campus by students, faculty and staff, has gradually gotten better, Seaver said.
J.D. Holmquist, another senior member of SHAC, wants people to know that the smoking policy and the Breathe Free supporters are not out to punish smokers. "We would love to see people quit smoking and live healthy lives," Holmquist said.
Though it may seem like the supporters are out to get smokers, they really want to help. "People know the resources are out there, they just don't always know how to access them. With the Breathe Free campaign, we are reaching out to students who want to quit and really giving them the support they need," Holmquist said. "We want former smokers to experience fresh air without the reminder of the habit that once held such power over them."
If caught smoking on campus, the Breathe Free supporters will politely ask the smoker to put out his/her cigarette. They will remind the smoker that UMD is a Breathe Free campus. “I’ve generally had good responses from people when I ask them to put out their cigarettes,” Seaver said. “Every once in a while you will find someone who won’t do it.”
Mostly what Seaver and other Breathe Free supporters have found is that people are often not aware that UMD is smoke free or what the policy contains. This is the reason the Breathe Free campaign was created.
In order to develop more awareness of the smoking policy, for the first time, SHAC, the Breathe Free supporters and UMD Administration educated the incoming freshmen during Bulldog Welcome Week about the policy. They also hold informational meetings and supporter training.
"It is highly encouraged that we get as many students involved as possible because in order for us to see this policy work, we need the support of as many students as possible," Holmquist said. "We really want to support the health of ALL students, and let them know that we aren't going anywhere."
We Can All Help
Breathe Free wants people to know that keeping UMD a smoke-free campus is not just up to the Breathe Free supporters and the university policy, but also up to each individual student.
“Many students are afraid to speak out about this issue, but it’s easy,” Seaver said. “It’s about taking your stance and saying you support the policy.”
The student involvement will help significantly in keeping UMD smoke free. “It’s all about the small things you do that help keep the policy in effect,” Seaver said. “As more campuses around the country are becoming smoke free and we are proud to be one of the first”
"We just want to see complete compliance with the policy on campus. Knowledge is power, and with Breathe Free more people will know about the policy and there will be better results," Holmquist said. "Breathing clean air everywhere on campus is a realistic possibility."
There will be a Breathe Free Supporter Training session on Thurs., Sept. 30 in the Garden Room from noon-1:30 pm. RSVP at firstname.lastname@example.org
For more information about the Breathe Free campaign and UMD's Smoking Policy you can visit http://www.d.umn.edu/breathefree/.
Written by Mandee Kuglin and Katherine McQuarter