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Students return to smoke-free campus

Profile image for By Rachel Mehlhaff / Staff Writer
By Rachel Mehlhaff / Staff Writer

University of North Texas students won’t be able to smoke on campus this semester.

As of Jan. 1, UNT went smoke free.

Buddy Price, a spokesman for UNT, said the university hasn’t had any problems yet.

“Monday will be a whole different world,” he said Thursday.

While the policy went into effect at the beginning of the year, most students haven’t been on campus until today, which is the first day of class for the semester.

The policy prohibits the use of smoking anywhere on university property.

Smokeless tobacco products and electronic cigarettes can be used outside at least 25 feet from a facility entrance as long as waste products are disposed of properly, according to the policy. Smokeless tobacco products include snuff, chewing tobacco, smokeless pouches and other forms of loose-leaf tobacco

Also, tobacco products cannot be sold or distributed on UNT property, the policy states.

“You can also smoke in your personal vehicle in a university parking lot if your windows are rolled up,” Price said.

The previous smoking policy prohibited smoking in buildings.

UNT implemented the new policy for the health and well-being of students, faculty, staff and campus visitors.

“The policy is not about reforming smokers,” Price said. “It’s about protecting those who don’t smoke.”

He said the university evaluated the large body of research on the harmful effects of second-hand smoke and conducted a survey of the campus, which showed a majority favored a smoke-free environment.

“We’re not saying you can’t use tobacco,” Price said. “We’re just saying you can’t use it on our campus.”

If someone sees someone smoking, they should remind them of the new policy, he said.

If someone is a repeat offender, he or she could be directed to human resources if they are an employee, and if they are a student, the office of student affairs, he said.

Students have different opinions about the new policy.

Robert Whistler, a UNT senior and employee, was smoking an electric cigarette outside the University Union Friday.

“I think it’s a little ridiculous,” he said of the new policy, adding that he thinks there should be designated smoking areas.

University officials are going to have a hard time enforcing it when the entire student body is back on campus, he said.

“I don’t think you can stop the desire to smoke,” Whistler said.

Because classes hadn’t started, there weren’t many students on campus Friday, but some freshmen shared their thoughts on the new smoking policy.

Brice Dotson doesn’t have a problem with it being a smoke-free campus even though he smokes.

It provides a better atmosphere, less litter and it’s healthier, he said.

“You have a better opportunity to quit,” said Dotson, who is planning to quit.

Deon Trae Jackson said it doesn’t make a difference to him.

“I don’t think they should take it away completely,” he said, adding that there should be designated areas for smoking.

Brittanee Lein said she thinks it’s a good change.

“The second-hand smoke is not good for anyone,” she said.

Lein also said the change is good motivation for smokers to quit.

UNT isn’t the first institution of higher education in the area to make this change.

North Central Texas College went tobacco free a year ago.

NCTC’s policy prohibits lighted or unlighted cigars, pipes, bidis, clove cigarettes and other smoking products, as well as spit-tobacco products — dip, chew, snuff and snus.

“When we decided we were going to go smoke free, we decided we may as well include [all] tobacco,” said Robbie Baugh, senior director of campus operations with NCTC.

Since its implementation on Jan. 1, 2012, the college hasn’t had many problems, he said.

“Everyone seems to be accepting it,” Baugh said, adding that the main problem has been electric cigarettes, which are also prohibited.

A few have challenged the policy, including electronic cigarettes, but, for the most part, people have been polite when asked not to smoke on campus, he said.

Americans Nonsmokers’ Rights Foundation reports that more than 1,000 universities and colleges in the Unites States have gone smoke free and of those, more than 700 are tobacco free. Texas Woman’s University isn’t a smoke-free campus, but it has a smoking policy that went into effect in 2011 that only permits smoking in designated areas. Its Houston campus is smoke free in compliance with Houston ordinances.

A ban on smoking isn’t only a topic of discussion at local institutions of higher education.

The city of Denton recently passed a smoking ban, which prohibits smoking in restaurants, bowling alleys and billiard parlors. Smoking will be allowed in bars that do not admit patrons younger than 18 and tobacco-related businesses.

The ban doesn’t extend to private spaces, such as personal vehicles and private residences, unless they are used for day care, adult care or health care. It also isn’t prohibited in private clubs and fraternal organizations.

There is a $2,000 fine for violating the ban, which goes into effect April 17.

RACHEL MEHLHAFF can be reached at 940-566-6889. Her e-mail address is .