By Erika Webb
No one is blowing smoke on Stetson University's campuses in DeLand and Gulfport.
Figuratively professors may beg to differ with that statement. Literally, as of Aug. 1, use of all tobacco, electronic cigarettes and a variety of smokeless products is prohibited in Stetson buildings and structures, on grounds, parking lots and in university and personal vehicles while on Stetson grounds.
"With Stetson's institutional values commitments that focus on the development of the whole person, it is imperative that our campuses provide a safe and healthy environment for our students, faculty, staff, alumni and visitors," the school's president, Dr. Wendy B. Libby, stated in a news release. "I am proud of the work of so many who advocated for and led us to becoming tobacco and smoke-free."
With the implementation of the policy, Stetson joins a rapidly growing list of colleges and universities nationwide. Locally, it follows Daytona State College, Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University and Bethune-Cookman University in kicking the habit off school grounds.
"Stetson began implementing smoking restrictions in 2007 by banning smoking near buildings and air vents," according to the release.
Since then a series of informational sessions, health fairs, human resource training sessions, free smoking education programs and resources for those who want to quit, including cessation products and classes, have been offered.
Kevin Serrano, a clerk at the college's Dupont-Ball Library, is a junior studying molecular biology. He also happens to have a condition that is not helped by smoke.
"I personally appreciate the policy because I'm an asthmatic," Mr. Serrano said. "Cigarette smoke and other smoke have always been problematic for me, so the implementation of this policy is very helpful for my health."
When he started at Stetson, Mr. Serrano noticed many more students smoking on campus than he has seen recently.
He attributes that to the university's awareness-building events organized to spotlight health problems associated with tobacco use, and for which student-attendees earn cultural credits.
"The new policy is the result of several years of research, focus groups and a university task force that determined that smoking was inconsistent with the values of the university," according to the release. "Stetson's commitment to values like health and wellness includes protecting non-smokers and also supporting smokers in reconsidering a behavior that has been scientifically proven to have serious long-term health consequences."
University Hall Resident Advisor Heather Lee, a junior studying biochemistry, was busy at work the day before the new policy took effect.
She also agrees with the ban.
"I don't like second hand smoke," Ms. Lee said. "It makes me cough. I don't like it at all."
Though she's never seen anyone smoking on the grounds of the dormitory and only knows a few smokers at the college, Ms. Lee said she has witnessed plenty of people smoking in what were designated areas for tobacco use.
"I'm guessing it will upset them," she said, "but hopefully they'll understand it's for the good of the community."
Stetson community members are empowered to respectfully inform others about the policy and the ongoing effort to enhance awareness of and encourage compliance. Violation may result in corrective action under the Student Code of Conduct, Human Resources Policies and Procedures, or other applicable University Regulations or Policies. Visitors refusing to comply may be asked to leave campus.
Dawson Schuman of DeLand, a senior studying political science and pre-law, was chairman of the policy reform committee to stop the ban.
Mr. Schuman is a cigar smoker.
Asked whether or not the policy will hamper his lifestyle he said, "Probably not, but at the same time I don't like it."
"The biggest issue was a lot of students felt, whether or not they used tobacco products, they felt their rights were being infringed upon," Mr. Schuman explained. "The school trying to advocate for a healthier student body, I don't think that's a bad thing, but we're 18 years old, adults, and paying $52,000 a year to go to school here. I think we should be able to make our own decisions."
An important component of the Stetson experience is putting values into action, according to Dr. Christopher Kandus-Fisher, vice president of student affairs.
The decision aligns with the university's commitment to holistic wellness, he explained in the release.
"The residence halls have been smoke-free for quite some time, and it is wonderful to see that the university community supports the overall health and wellness of our faculty, staff and students," Dr. Kandus-Fisher said.