No ifs, ands or cigarette butts: MIZZOU smoke-free policy prompts task force at UMKC

A task force approved by the Student Government Association and the Faculty Senate will start looking at initiatives to convert UMKC into a tobacco-free campus.

Similar steps are already in progress on Mizzou’s campus, with a July 1 deadline already established to finalize the removal of designated smoking spaces.

“On July 1, we will begin the final phase of our five-year tobacco transition, which will eliminate smoking on campus and in campus-owned or leased properties or vehicles,” said Dr. Lauren Schopp, Mizzou Wellness Program Director. “Prior to July 1, smoking is limited to designated areas on campus.”

The implementation of the smoke-free policy at Mizzou was originally intended for January 2014.  After a proposal was presented during a joint session between the Residence Hall Association, Missouri Student Association (MSA) and the Legion of Black Collegians, MSA president Xavier Billingsley prompted a unanimous vote to expedite the previous timeline, changing the new date to January 2013.

“Work to make MU a smoke-free campus stretches back decades, but the most recent concrete step toward this goal was completed in July 2011, when MU moved to step two in its campus plan for eliminating smoking from the university environment,” said former MSA Vice President Helen Kooi. “This step set up designated smoking zones on campus, but left most of the area smoke-free.”

The difference between Mizzou’s current policy and the one proposed for all UMKC campuses is the immediacy and extent of the ban.  A smoking ban is in place at Mizzou, which means the enforcement in July will be focused on smoking tobacco. However, the proposal for UMKC would entail a tobacco-free policy, including the use of chewing tobacco, hookah, e-cigarettes and other forms—not just smoking.

The 12-page proposal drafted by Caleb-Michael Files, a junior communication studies and political science major, and Amy Johnson, a senior biology major and the Student Representative to the University of Missouri Board of Curators, has been presented to the Faculty Senate and SGA at UMKC.

A brief discussion about the tobacco-free proposal passed through the Faculty Senate with two abstentions.

“Personally I disagree with the decision the Faculty Senate made on this issue because I’m fine with people smoking outside buildings,” said Dr. Stephen Dilks, Director of Composition and English professor.

Dilks said a possible alternative to a tobacco-free campus would be enclosed smoking shelters.

The Student Government Association passed the same proposal to create the task force with a 19-4 vote with two abstentions.

“The real reason why the Senate voted to support these initiatives is simply because they are not binding initiatives,” said SGA President Danny Riffel. “The Senate saw no harm or benefit in creating a committee whose sole purpose was to gather more facts about the idea.”

Although the phasing in of a smoke-free campus was effective for the Jan. 1 2013 date, a grace period of six months will allow for Mizzou to offer cessation to students, faculty and staff.

Mizzou has not felt the need to enforce the current policy through fines and ticketing.  However, Schopp says the policy is subject to progressive discipline and is dependent on members of the university verbally and courteously reminding others of the implementation.

Johnson and Files intend to hold open forums to further the discussion of a tobacco-free campus, a dialogue SGA believes will benefit the overall decision.

“We absolutely hope to include a full student-body vote on this issue,” Riffel said. “While this vote will not be binding either, we feel that it is very important for the students to have a big input on the direction their University is taking. The student vote will evaluate whether or not the students would support a resolution from SGA moving to make the campus tobacco-free.”

The Wellness Resource Center offers Mizzou students free nicotine patches, gum and lozenges, one-on-one coaching and peer support. A student volunteer group has also been formed at Mizzou called Peers Advocating Smoke-Free Solutions that focuses on tobacco prevention, education and cessation.

There is not currently a list of cessation programs included in the drafted proposal.  The UM system does offer numerous resource contacts as part of its UM wellness program, but no in-house resources are projected for UMKC if a tobacco-free policy is implemented.

Currently there are 16 designated smoking spaces in addition to the parking structures on Mizzou’s campus that will be eliminated in July.  UMKC’s Volker campus has 32 designated smoking areas, and Hospital Hill currently has two.

rbrooks@unews.com

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