UNA SGA considers smoke-free resolution

Students Hassan Al Ali, Ali AlMubarak and Mohammed Al Ali gather outside the GUC Jan. 16 to smoke while discussing the day’s events. SGA leaders have expressed intentions to present a campus smoking ban later this year.

While an SGA proposal to ban cigarettes on campus blew up in a puff of smoke last year, senators say the organization will pursue similar legislation again in 2015.

Currently 17 out of the 36 public and private four-year colleges and universities in Alabama have a smoking ban in place.

Recently, Stillman College in Tuscaloosa and the University of Alabama at Birmingham have chosen to go completely tobacco-free.

SGA Senate Pro Tempore Sarah Emerson says UNA may not be far behind.

Emerson introduced smoke-free legalization to Senate last school year, but it was not adopted.

This year she is helping senators form a committee to help determine if a smoke-free campus is what UNA students, faculty and staff want.

Emerson said the committee would allow students from all three branches of SGA — Senate, UPC and Freshman Forum — to work together on the issue.

Vice President for Student Affairs David Shields said SGA is starting another conversation about how tobacco use affects campus.

“It is important not to make an arbitrary decision without input from shared governance,” Shields said.

Shields said the conversation covers smoking, smokeless tobacco products and e-cigarettes. He pointed to UAB’s decision to include vaping in its no-smoking policy.

Freshman Jeremiah Pierce said if UNA goes tobacco-free, the ban should only include cigarettes, not e-cigarettes, vaping and chewing tobacco.

Although Emerson believes a smoking ban would be good for UNA, she said, “Is this the right time for our campus?” needs to be asked.

Freshman Altora Winston said she is not sure if a smoking ban is right for UNA.

“Everybody doesn’t smoke, so smokers need to be considerate of others,” Winston said.

She said breathing smoke is a choice people make for themselves, not others.

“I would (support a smoking ban),” Shields said. “It wouldn’t bother me. If it is something that the campus wants, I would support that.”

He said the question to ask is ‘how would it enhance the campus environment if we move to a nonsmoking policy?’

“I don’t think that smoking on campus really affects people’s opinion of this campus,” said freshman Jeremiah Pierce. “I don’t have a problem with smoking, but I do have a problem with cigarette butts. I’m all about a cleaner campus.”

Last semester Senate passed a resolution encouraging the university police department to enforce the current smoking and tobacco regulations.

The current university tobacco-use policy states no smoking is allowed within 30 feet of entrance, exits, open windows and interconnected breezeways.

“The term tobacco-free shall be interpreted to mean all forms of smoking tobacco, such as cigarettes, cigars and pipes, as well as smokeless tobacco products, such as snuff and chewing tobacco,” according to the policy.

Interim Police Chief Mark Parker noted some of the changes made recently to campus to encourage the enforcement of the current policy, like the removal of the hut near the GUC that was a popular place for people to smoke.

“The area was encouraging a violation of the policy because it was five feet from the doors of the GUC,” Shields said.

Junior Hayden Henderson said he is OK with the current smoking policy and thinks the Senate’s resolution asking that current smoking regulations be enforced was a good decision.

“I wouldn’t go tobacco-free,” he said. “People dip, and that doesn’t bother anybody. But smoking should be in designated areas.”

Ultimately, a decision on changing the current tobacco policy will have to come down from the president and executive council of the university, Shields said.

Resolutions passed by SGA act as the organization’s official stance on the issue. They do not have immediate policy-changing effects.

Shields said the most important factor in any decision made regarding a new tobacco use or smoking policy should be what faculty, staff and students want.