Students collect signatures for smoke-free university

Melissa Fose

Melissa Fose

Many SDSU student organizations have collaborated efforts to obtain 1,200 signatures to petition for a smoke-free campus.

The Tobacco Coalition, Helping Everyone Reach Optimal Health (HEROH), Colleges Against Cancer, Academy of Student Pharmacists and the Students’ Association gathered the signatures starting in January.

The current SDSU smoking policy says that smokers must be 20 feet from the door. The petition supports a completely smoke-free SDSU campus, including outdoor areas.

Student support seems to be high, but the petition supporters do not know how the faculty stands on the issue.

“If we have support from the faculty to go smoke-free, this item can pass much easier because we know the students want a smoke-free campus,” said Lee Walraven, the student coordinator for the SDSU Tobacco Coalition and historian committee chairperson for HEROH. “UND had a large faculty support and so did other various campuses like Appalachian State University and Youngstown State.”

About 99 percent of the petition signatures are from students who stopped by booths set up in The Union, Wellness Center or at the Wellness Fair, Walraven said.

In the spring of 2008, Tobacco Coalition presented a survey to 300 students in The Union. Walraven said a little under 80 percent had positive feelings toward a smoke-free campus.

Students’ Association Senator Aaron Merchen said he starting looking into a ban on smoking in fall 2008. He talked with various people on campus, both students and faculty, about the steps to change SDSU into a smoke-free campus.

As a result, a three-tiered approach of reasons to ban smoking on campus was developed, Merchen, a senior history education major from Mankato, Minn., said.

The reasons include long-term student health, secondhand smoke and campus beautification. Merchen said a smoke-free campus would help prevent students from starting the habit, reduce current cigarette use among students and decrease the exposure of students to secondhand smoke. He said the ban would clean up campus, too, by reducing cigarette butt litter.

“This isn’t an insane idea coming out of left field. Other campuses are smoke-free,” said Kaley Lyons, a Students’ Association senator for the College of Pharmacy.

She said that as a first-year pharmacy student, she is always advocating healthy lifestyles.

Walraven said that the University of North Dakota, Youngstown State University (Youngstown, O.H.) and Appalachian State University (Boone, N.C.) currently have smoke-free campuses. He also said that North Dakota State University has passed the ban and the University of South Dakota is in the same process stage as SDSU.

“Students shouldn’t put their health at risk for higher education,” said Walraven. Even smoking outside harms others because carcinogens are carried by the wind, sometimes 20 to 30 feet, he said.

“It only takes one carcinogen [to cause cancer],” said Walraven.

Several major companies have non-smoking policies, Walraven said. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention lists several businesses that ban smoking on all company property, including Nike, Inc., BF Goodrich Tire Manufacturing and Lowe’s Companies, Inc. Other companies have a smoke-free policy inside their facilities, including Coca Cola, General Mills and Procter & Gamble.

Rather than eliminating the need for the petition, the state smoking ban will actually help by promoting the idea of smoke-free areas, said Walraven.

“The idea of being outside smoke-free is not a ludicrous idea,” he said.

Merchen agrees. “The smoking ban helps stop the thinking that [supporters] are the minority.”