EMU enforcing smoking rules: Fines, warnings

At Eastern Michigan University a variety of programs are working together to help prevent secondhand smoke and clean up the campus.

The official tobacco use policy found in Chapter 22 of “Policies Affecting You at EMU 2012-13” states that students, employees and visitors are prohibited from using tobacco in all campus buildings (except university apartments), university vehicles and within 25 feet of any campus building’s entrance, air intake duct or window.

In addition, the policy includes a section prohibiting use of tobacco products in outdoor areas where seating is provided and on the grounds of the Children’s Institute.

EMU’s Campus Life department created signs stating the smoking rules and provided ashtrays for smokers, but for those who refuse to put their butts out the penalties can be severe.

To begin with, there are two levels of enforcement: The community level is set in place by the Michigan Clean Air Act. The sanction for the community level is “civil fines of not more than $100 for the first violation, and not more than $500 for the second or subsequent violations.” If the violation occurs near the Children’s Institute, the penalty could be up to a $1,000 fine.

The second level is EMU’s personal violation policy. Faculty and staff can receive “termination of employment for habitual repeat offenders,” whereas students could receive anything from a verbal warning up to a suspension or dismissal from the university.

“Most people who violate the policy are simply unaware and would be warned with no further action,” EMU Health Education and Wellness Coordinator Eric Ward said.

“If you had a friend come to campus and they were violating the policy, you could be found responsible for their actions,” Ward said.

But highlighting hazards and detailing penalties can only do so much in the battle to break people’s smoking habits. A subtle psychological factor affecting students is their perceived notion of smokers on campus. Ward said in the 2011 National College Health Assessment survey only 19.7 percent of EMU Students identified themselves as having smoked cigarettes in the 30-day period prior to taking the survey.

In contrast, the perceived tobacco use by peers was 90.6 percent. This remarkable gap between perception and reality can lead to an unintended bandwagon effect. If the mindset is that everyone is smoking, there is a perceived strength in numbers and students could be more likely to smoke.

The dangers of smoking cigarettes range from vanity problems such as lingering coughs, pervasive smells, chapped lips, yellowed teeth and fingernails to a deadly smorgasbord of cancers. Secondhand smoke also comes with its own costs—namely, increased risk of cancer and heart disease in adults.

“Seven hundred and seventy-four universities and colleges have strictly limited where students and staff can light up and 560 have banned it altogether,” Claudia Cowan reported in a recent Fox News Mobile video.

The national Tobacco-Free College Campus Initiative kick-off on September 12 aimed to provide collaboration between experts as well as academic officials in order to promote and maintain tobacco-free policies on campuses nationwide.

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