Inconvenienced smokers violate policy

This semester more and more Northern Kentucky University students are seen smoking cigarettes on the way to class, outside buildings, and away from designated smoking areas.

NKU is a smoke-free campus with the exception of designated smoking areas. But without strict enforcement and little compliance from students, it’s hard to tell where those areas are. Although the signage around the university is visible, some student smokers feel inconvenienced by unaccommodating smoking areas on campus.

One student who smokes, freshman psychology major Kristine Jackson, says, “They’re not convenient with where I go to class.”

In 2006, NKU implemented the Clean Air Act, which states that “campus shall be designated as nonsmoking within all highly populated pedestrian areas,” These areas include the Loch Norse area, Norse Commons, University Plaza and other highly populated area. The campus is also designated as “nonsmoking within a 30-foot perimeter of all campus facilities, unless otherwise stipulated as a smoking area.”

There are six designated areas: near the now nonexistent sun dial in the University Plaza, the south entrance of the lower level of Landrum Hall, the north entrance of the Applied Science & Technology Building, the east entrance of the University Center, the Natural Science Center plaza, and the south side of the Albright Health Center.

Although the specified areas are stated in the policy, many students are unaware of where they can smoke and NKU’s policy itself. When asked how he felt about smoking on campus, freshman exercise science major Adam Johnson was unaware of the smoking policy at all.

“I prefer smoke-free everywhere. I don’t smoke and can’t stand the smell of smoke,” he said. The idea of a smoke-free campus has been discussed before by the Student Government Association in 2006 and more recently by the NKU Wellness Center.

According to a student survey presented by the Wellness Center in spring 2011, approximately 89 percent of students at NKU do not smoke. With this information, student wellness manager Maggie Gough encourages the university to move towards a smoke-free campus.

NKU would not be the first Kentucky university to transition to a smoke-free campus. The University of Kentucky made the switch in 2009. UK is officially a tobacco-free campus; but since the policy went into place, the university has similar problems with compliance.

Unlike NKU, UK implemented the use of a task force called Tobacco-Free Take Action. The ambassadors of Tobacco-Free Task Force help with compliance on campus with scripted conversations used to approach violators. According to Melinda Ickes, kinesiology and health professor at UK and administrator for Take Action, the ambassadors approached over 300 violators within the first weeks of the fall 2011 semester.

NKU has similar problems with getting smokers to comply with the designated areas on campus. According to the policy, “[d]eans, directors, department heads, supervisors and administrators shall be responsible for disseminating this policy, for encouraging compliance with this policy, and for monitoring the appropriate signage.”

At UK, students who violate the smoking policy are given warnings and asked to sign up for programs to encourage smoking cessation. Ickes said the policy wasn’t meant to be “heavy-handed,” but focused on compliance and making sure the campus recognized the policy.

With the task force, Ickes said they received many negative responses at first, but have seen a recent rise in positive reaction and students taking advantage of the university’s free smoking cessation options.

UK professor and Director of the Clean Indoor Act partnership Ellen Hahn said that for such an influential initiative to be successful, the organization needs not only support and good communication, but also to make cessation options more accessible.

NKU’s Wellness Center also provides many options for students, faculty and staff to quit smoking, including references and information on where NKU can receive the most thorough treatment.

NKU students find the designated smoking areas on campus to be “inconvenient” to their classroom locations. The univeristy is currently smoke-free with designated smoking areas; ideas of moving to completely smoke-free have recently been discussed.