Critics Stomp Vape Ban in Campus Tobacco-Free Movement
Students lobbied University at Albany policymakers to ban the use of all tobacco products on campus grounds last week.
As part of the National Public Health Week initiative, the New York State Public Health Association’s undergraduate chapter at UAlbany worked to rally support from other students to prevent smoking on campus. In addition to cigarettes and cigars, the ban would include smokeless tobacco products and electronic vaporizers.
NYSPHA President and spokesman Michael Seserman has said the policy is meant to “improve the health of the campus community,”increase “respect for the campus environment,” and reduce tobacco-related litter campus-wide.
Seserman noted that nearly half of SUNY universities already have tobacco-free policies in place, and that UAlbany is the only university in the Capital Region that allows the use of tobacco products on campus grounds.
Pressed on whether the ban would decrease the number of students who currently use tobacco products, Seserman said he believes it would, though he noted that’s not the policy’s purpose.
“The aim is to reduce exposure to smoke for all students,” said Seserman, adding that the proposed ban would be more effective than the current policy of designating smoking areas, “as it’s clear those don’t work.”
In regards to the inclusion of smokeless tobacco and electronic vaporizers, Seserman said he that does not want to encourage students who smoke to switch to another form of tobacco use, but instead to quit altogether.
Student Association President-Elect Jerlisa Fontaine supports the policy, agreeing that tobacco use affects the whole of the student body, not only the user.
“It is important to allow people to practice their liberty and do things that make them happy,” Fontaine said. “However, tobacco doesn’t help anyone; it only harms them.”
Fontaine agreed with Seserman that the current policy of allowing tobacco use in designated areas is ineffective and often ignored, and concluded that the push for a tobacco-free campus was a “great initiative.”
SA Vice President Colin Manchester supports the effort to ban smoking on campus, but stops short of endorsing the NYSPHA initiative wholesale. However, he does not agree with the inclusion of smokeless tobacco and electronic vaporizers.
“No, I do not. These products are only harming the individual who chooses to use it,” Manchester said.
Though he is inclined to support the ban, Manchester said that designating areas for tobacco use could be effective in limiting exposure to smoke, but added that such policies would need to be “implemented properly and enforced heavily.”
Alec Vidiksis, a senior human biology major who smokes, supports the goal of creating a respectful environment for students who do not smoke, but only if the policies implemented are fair to those who do.
“You’re telling me if I want to smoke my e-cig or a cigarette I have to walk 5 minutes off campus to take a few puffs? That’s kind of ridiculous,” he said.
While Vidiksis intends to follow the policy is implemented, he noted that many students may not.
Shane Carelli, a junior Psychology major who does not smoke but uses an electronic vaporizer, understands the push to limit tobacco smoke on campus, but is unsure how smokeless tobacco and vaporizers are harmful to other students. He is also doubtful that the ban could be enforced successfully.
“Nicotine use is an addiction, people aren’t going to stop just because they make a rule stating it’s not permitted,” said Carelli. “The university is just going to waste more time and resources enforcing the policy that could be devoted to more important things.”
The NYSPHA effort is not the first attempt to restrict tobacco use at UAlbany. The SUNY Board of Trustees passed a resolution in June of 2012 to support tobacco-free policies at all SUNY schools. Former UAlbany President Dr. Robert Jones had previously explored efforts to ban tobacco use on campus, but did not push for their implementation.