After a long-awaited decision involving a Student Government Association referendum, a faculty and staff survey and several public forums, a campus known for its sustainability efforts is now tobacco-free as of Aug. 25.
All tobacco products including chewing tobacco and electronic cigarettes are now banned campus-wide, even on sidewalks and parking lots. The only exception to the ban is Tomahawk’s natural resources education center, Treehaven. This location will have until next fall to fully implement the rule.
The final decision was announced last December, so officials were faced with the task of putting the ban in place over summer break.
“There was a lot of work done behind the scenes by a lot of different people to get this done in short order,” said Jen Sorenson, Director of Student Health Services and coordinator of tobacco-free efforts at the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point.
Sorenson worked closely with the office of the dean of students to develop a sanctioning grid.
“Education is the key to enforcement,” Sorenson said. “We are not looking to punish those who violate the ban. We are taking a graduated approach in our sanctions.”
Sorenson said that everyone on campus can do their part to remind those who violate the ban and show them the boundaries.
Although fines are not a part of the sanctioning grid, those who do continue use tobacco on campus will be given warnings. If violations continue to occur, they will face consequences such as enrolling in an educational program or community service.
Members of SGA made themselves available this summer to assist with policy development and be a resource to those with questions about the ban.
“There has been discussion about becoming tobacco-free for about the past decade, with the largest push being about two years ago,” said SGA Vice President Katie Cronmiller. “This decision came directly from the students. We expect an easy transition and will address any issues during this school year.”
Seeing the ban put into place is making some students realize that their voice really is heard by SGA and the university.
“I think that the ban is a really great step toward improving campus and will also help students see how important the referendum really was,” said junior accounting major Cody Gabryshak.
Students have also noticed the effort of the university to remind students and community members of the ban using the signage placed throughout campus and neighboring areas.
“I think UWSP is trying to be one step ahead of the game by putting signs in front of surrounding businesses asking tobacco-users not to litter,” said junior athletic training major Mitch Willert. “Littering could wind up being a problem, but hopefully it is not.”
The ultimate goal of the tobacco ban is to promote a healthier lifestyle and set an example for students.
“As the culture changes over time, we hope that students who do use tobacco will ultimately find it easier to quit,” Sorenson said.
Student Health Services is offering several options for students who are looking to cease tobacco use including prescription medication, nicotine replacement products at a reduced cost, individual counseling and support groups. Faculty and staff are also presented with aid through their health insurance.
Not only will this ban affect tobacco users, but it will also significantly lessen exposure to secondhand smoke.
“I hate smelling smoke on my way to class, and people definitely did not follow the 30-foot rule,” Gabryshak said.
Although many students are in support of the ban, not everyone is on board with the idea that the university should attempt to tackle students’ addiction.
“Personally, I think that the tobacco ban is quite unnecessary,” said junior dietetics major Quinn Wolter. “University students are coming into a completely new environment, and they are here to learn. Not only are they here for academics, but they are also developing who they are on a personal level. To do that, you need to make mistakes.”
Wolter commented on his personal experience as a smoker in the process of quitting.
“I have gained insight on how much it impacts your financial and personal life,” Wolter said. “Living with a money-leeching crutch is not a great way to live, but it did teach me a lot about how to manage myself as a person. That opportunity is being impeded by the new ban.”
“We are not looking to punish those who violate the ban. We are taking a graduated approach in our sanctions.” – Jen Sorenson, director of Student Health Services