By Lauren Lavelle
Students and faculty were invited to attend a forum on Nov. 14 to discuss Rider potentially adopting a smoke-free campus policy that many colleges and universities nationwide have recently implemented.
Sponsored by the Center for Wellness and Health Studies Institute, the discussion began with a presentation by Susan Stahley, Rider’s substance abuse and sexual assault prevention coordinator.
She started off the conversation by stressing the timeline regarding a move toward becoming a smoke-and tobacco-free campus.
“I do need to say this is not happening today,” Stahley said. “This is not coming from administration. Rider is not coming in and saying we’re smoke-free right now.”
Director of the coaching and school counseling program Trevor Buser also reinforced this statement.
The timing of this project, which he worked on with Stahley, “was based primarily on the feedback we received from members of the Rider community,” he said. “This year, both students and faculty expressed their desire for a campus-wide dialogue about the possibility of becoming a smoke-free campus.”
Stahley introduced the statistics of the policy, claiming over 2,000 colleges and universities enforce smoke-free campuses. Of these campuses, over 1,000 also prohibit the use of tobacco and e-cigarettes.
“How many of you have been hearing for years that smoking is bad?” she asked the audience. “We all know the reasons why people shouldn’t smoke. We also know that secondhand smoke isn’t a great thing either. It’s potentially more harmful than smoking.”
Graduate assistant for sustainability Jillian Spratt also sounded off on the smoke-free policy and outlined the potential environmental benefits a smoke-free campus could have on Rider in the long run.
“As a university, one of our major, long-term goals is to become carbon neutral no later than 2050,” she said. “That means zero net carbon emissions. We won’t be emitting any carbon or sequestering any carbon because of our various efforts.”
She informed the audience of the logistics of tobacco use, highlighting the effect it has on deforestation, pesticide use and littering.
She said, “4.5 trillion cigarette butts are dropped every year. It’s the most littered item in the world and the most popular item picked up in beach clean ups. The material from the filters can leach into the soil and water table, so this is a health issue for different ecosystems and our personal health.”
Stahley added, “According to facilities, it takes at least 30 minutes a day to pick up all the cigarette butts around campus.”
As for the smoking rules already in place on campus, specifically the guidelines stating students must smoke 25 feet away from buildings, Stahley and other contributing students and faculty agreed this rule is not heavily enforced and therefore ineffective.
“How many of you have walked outside a building and gotten enveloped in a cloud of either cigarette or vape smoke?” she asked. “Is the 25 foot thing working? Not so much. I’ve talked about moving the cigarette receptacles 25 feet away from the building, but smokers will move them back or deposit their butts on the ground.”
The role of smoking for international students was also addressed, with representatives from Centennial House claiming the absence of smoking on campus may urge international students to attempt smoking in their dorm rooms.
Stahley also provided facts regarding cigarette usage among international students, claiming a study from American University refutes the claim that international students smoke more than the average student.
“American University in Washington, D.C. did a study and found that many of them do not smoke,” she said. “We may see a large group of them come in to smoke, but if we’re attracting non-smokers, many people will be coming in because it’s a smoke-free campus.”
Both Stahley and representatives from the Student Government Association made sure the audience understood the idea of a smoke-free campus is a work in progress that will take time and several resources to be officially implemented.
“We’re not prohibiting people from smoking,” said Stahley. “We do not want to trample on the choice to smoke. We’re just saying, ‘Not in front of us. Not on our campus.’”