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The Mass Media

The Mass Media

The Mass Media

UMass Boston needs to be firmer to eliminate on-campus smoking

The new University of Massachusetts Boston tobacco-free policy has been a major topic of discussion on campus since it was approved. The policy, set to take effect on Aug. 1, 2015, “prohibits the use of any tobacco or nicotine products everywhere on campus — in all buildings and outdoor areas controlled by the university, including parking lots.”

In regards to how it will be enforced, the policy states that, “individuals observed smoking are to be reminded in a professional and courteous manner of the university’s policy and the availability of cessation programs.”

In cases where this method is ineffective, the policy declares that, “effective, regular university grievance and disciplinary procedures will be followed,” with procedures varying depending on whether the policy offender is a student, faculty, staff, or visitor.

While I applaud UMass Boston for taking a stand on this matter, I do not feel that the policy is strong enough to cause any real change. I, like many others on campus, despise having to walk through clouds of cigarette smoke between classes, especially when those who are smoking are doing so in areas clearly labeled with signs that declare it a no-smoking area.

The problem lies in the fact that there is no enforcement of the already-determined no-smoking areas. It’s frustrating as a student to be exposed to the dangers of second-hand smoke in these areas when the campus police present at the time do nothing to stop smokers from disobeying these designations.

If there is already difficulty in enforcing the currently designated areas where smoking is not allowed, how are we to know that the enforcement of the new policy will be effective?

The new policy claims that “[e]nforcement will be primarily on the basis of voluntary actions by the university community, with an emphasis on education.” It appears that the responsibility of enforcement falls on the heads of non-smokers and other volunteers. As a student looking for a real, effective solution to this situation, this implementation and planned enforcement plan seems just as, if not more, ineffective than what is currently on the books.

What isn’t taken into account by making enforcement the responsibility of the UMass community is the occurrence of the diffusion of responsibility. This is the phenomenon of not taking action because of the assumption that someone else will or already has. Speaking as a student, I would find myself incredibly uncomfortable going up to a complete stranger on campus and reminding them to not smoke due to the policy.

And even if members of the UMass community do go up to smokers in an attempt to enforce the policy, we aren’t living in a fantasy land. It’s not as if someone will approach a stranger, tap them on the shoulder to politely remind them of the policy, and the smoker will immediately put out the cigarette while sunshine and bunnies appear and Kumbaya plays in the background — that’s unrealistic.  There are bound to be instances where there is no cooperation and the interactions are less than polite from both sides.

For the times when that method does not work, there is the implementation of the grievance and disciplinary procedures, but their explanations in the new policy leave a lot to be desired. What are these practices? Why aren’t they explained in the policy? How exactly do these procedures vary between students, faculty, staff, and visitors? The lack of explanation for these procedures makes me wonder how effective they will actually be.

This discussion isn’t to demonize those on campus who do smoke. It’s a personal choice and I can respect that; you have the right to smoke cigarettes if you so please. The issue here is that the university has implemented a new policy that, upon examination, does not appear to have an effective plan for enforcement. If there is to be a policy created that aims to change on-campus life as drastically as this, it damn well better be effective in its implementation.

So what is the solution? Fines for those who are caught smoking in designated non-smoking areas could be an effective way to enforce the policy. People may be more likely to not smoke on campus if they risk losing money for doing it. While it is a positive to work towards making UMass Boston a tobacco-free campus, the enforcement of the policy needs to be reevaluated because, under the policy’s current enforcement measures, there will be no significant changes.