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Smoking ban's effects unclear

Published on February 15th, 2008 17:02

Rebecca Pardue and Jackson Barber smoke by the flag pole in Polk Place. The new smoking ban prohibits smoking within 100 feet of buildings.

One month after going into effect, the campuswide ban on smoking is getting mixed reviews.

Since Jan. 1, smoking has been prohibited within 100 feet of campus buildings, and programs are being promoted to encourage quitting.

While several members of the campus community have taken advantage of the cessation options, others feel the ban infringes upon personal rights.

Allen O'Barr, director of Counseling and Wellness Services, said the ban hasn't been very effective. He still sees people putting out cigarettes on the "no smoking" signs by UNC Hospitals. But loose enforcement isn't a bad thing, he said.

"I don't think people respond to a confrontational approach," O'Barr said. "It's been nicely done but not enforced so much that people think their rights are being taken away."

Stephen Rouse, a sophomore who's smoked since he started college, plans to quit one day - but not with one of the University's programs and not because of the ban.

"I don't see any reason to stop smoking just because they set some arbitrary date for me to stop," Rouse said.

But Ray Hackney, interim director for the Department of Environment, Health and Safety, said the ban received a positive response.

About 20 students have shown up to participate in cessation programs, and the number is "larger than we expected," O'Barr said.

UNC posted information about its programs in residence halls, on campus and online. Officials also distributed coupons for cessation drugs, O'Barr said.

To stay 100 feet away from campus buildings, smokers gather in areas such as the middle of Polk Place around the flagpole.

"I feel like it's unifying," Rouse said. "It's a solidarity thing, and we go there and talk about how the smoking ban is retarded."

As far as enforcement, faculties which violate the ban are approached by their departments, while students are sent to their deans. Hackney said this method of enforcement still is being evaluated. Some students said there shouldn't be a ban at all.

"I feel like it's pretty ridiculous to take a legal activity - something that people choose to do - and tell people they aren't allowed to and that their rights don't matter," said freshman Charlie Vick, who smokes often.

But Hackney said he regards smoking as a public health rather than personal rights issue.

"Of course, we understand that it may be difficult for smokers to quit," Hackney said, "but we provide programs for that."

UNC started to limit smoking in 1993, when it prohibited smoking in buildings. In summer 2007 the ban extended to the hospital grounds.

Katy Keefe, a student who doesn't smoke, said she hasn't noticed a difference in number of smokers on campus before and after the ban. She said she doesn't think the ban should apply around residence halls.

"I don't agree with smoking," Keefe said. "But banning smoking around the dorms is banning smoking around the home, and that's an invasion of privacy."

The University will continue to encourage student health and develop new programs, O'Barr said. The next event is Kick Butts Day, a celebration of advocacy against tobacco use, on April 2 in the Pit.