UMass Boston's independent, student-run newspaper

The Mass Media

The Mass Media

The Mass Media

The Tobacco-Free Campus Policy: A Call for Renewal


The in-your-face signs about UMass Boston’s smoking policy have largely vanished. They are now infrequent, old, and out of the way.

When I was looking at the University of Massachusetts Boston as somewhere I could get my education back in 2015, signs were everywhere about the upcoming transition to becoming a smoke-free campus.

For people like me who hate smoking, I was happy to see those signs. For smokers, I assume it was annoying at best. The Tobacco-Free Campus Policy (TFCP), which can be found on the UMass Boston website, was implemented in January 2016, eight months before I started taking classes here.

By the end of 2016, I was already sucking in tobacco smoke when walking out of McCormack Hall. By the beginning of 2017, I was fuming (pun intended) and already brainstorming an angry article for The Mass Media.

Fortunately for you, this is not that angry article.

Nonetheless, this article is a call for the campus community and, specifically, those responsible for the creation and implementation of the Tobacco-Free Campus Policy, to recommit to their goals of making UMass Boston a tobacco-free campus.

In 2012, the campus policy on smoking prohibited smoking indoors, but had no formal restrictions on smoking outside. At that time, a survey was taken to collect data regarding perceptions of on-campus smoking. The data indicated that smoking was occurring in clusters, close to entrances and exits of campus buildings. Aside from statistics that indicates the majority of the campus community wishes to see less, or no, smoking on campus, it’s the comments at the end of the 2012 survey that are the most telling.

“I am an athlete at UMass [Boston] and do not like being exposed to secondhand smoke. When I walk out of a classroom, I am immediately barraged with plumes of smoke outside of every building. I feel that the school should not condone smoking.”

“Don’t allow smoking anywhere near the exits. It’s ridiculous. I feel like I’m coming out of a bar every time I change classes.”

I was struck by two things as I read through the comments. First, I have to admit—I don’t feel like I’m walking out of a bar when I enter or leave McCormack. I’m very grateful for that. On the flipside, I have walked past groups of seven or more people smoking in these areas at once. And they’re not trying to hide it. As I walk past, I uselessly ask myself over and over again “Do they even know this is a no-smoking campus?”

I wouldn’t be surprised if they didn’t. The signs that were in-your-face in 2015 about the transition have largely disappeared. The signs I do see are infrequent and look old. The signs are often not large, have small print, and are not always strategically placed.

Does sign placement matter in the face of no enforcement? I don’t think so.

Does sign placement matter in the face of addiction? No, it doesn’t.

The current plan does not specifically address the employment of signs. Interestingly, it does include information on enforcement, stating “Individuals observed smoking will be reminded in a professional and courteous manner, by volunteers trained by the Tobacco-Free Policy Committee.” Who are these volunteers? I have not seen them.

The policy itself states that the TFCP will be reviewed by the executive director of University Health Services, currently Robert Pomales, annually for the first three years following its implementation.

I imagine the events of the past year, both on the national stage as well as on UMass Boston’s campus, have been a little distracting. Perhaps things like President Trump threatening war with North Korea and UMass Boston’s $30 million debt seems more important than the no-smoking policy on campus. But do I really have to say that the little things matter as much as they ever did?

If you want to quit smoking, if you already think that it’s “just a bad habit,” UMass Boston has many resources to help you quit. I’m not saying it’s easy. My dad was a smoker and only quit five years ago when it got too expensive. But don’t wait 50 years. It’s not worth it.

Talk to Linda Dunphy, who graciously provided information for this interview. She is *the* contact if you would like to be provided with assistance to quit smoking. Her phone number is (617) 287-5680 (email: [email protected]). You can also find her at University Health Services on campus on the second floor of the Quinn Building.