By Mark Kobzik
UNH’s Student Senate will be voting on a smoking ban for all UNH properties on Nov. 22. The smoking ban will mean that students, faculty, and staff will be prohibited from smoking cigarettes and cigars on the campus. Off-campus apartments, Main Street, and other areas outside of the UNH campus will be free from this ban. Smokeless tobacco will not be prohibited under this resolution.
This proposal started during the summer as Cam Cook, student body president, made this a part of the Student Master Plan. Cook, along with Ryan Grogan, and Emily Counts, the chair of health and wellness led the proposal. Cook saw that many other campuses around New England had smoking bans, and said, “This was a big selling point. From a safety and health perspective and the empirical evidence we have… I think we should do it. I sure it won’t be unanimous, but it’s for the greater good.”
Cook sees that stronger enforcement of the 20-foot rule, which prohibits students from smoking within 20 feet of any building, will not be effective enough. He said, “There are those who are sometimes not willing to stand up and help enforce the 20 foot rule. It can be ineffective. I believe that a smoking ban, with all of the health research we have, is a better idea.”
Emily Counts led the effort to enact this ban. As chair of health and wellness, she researched this topic a lot working with Health Services and the Office of Community Standards. 2015 New Hampshire Higher Education Alcohol, Tobacco and Other Drug Survey reported that, of students who responded when asked if they are in favor of a smoking ban, 45 percent said yes while 32 percent said no, and 22 percent said they were undecided.
A UNH Institutional Data Report from Spring of 2015 reported that daily use of cigarettes within the past 30 days, was only 1.4 percent. The students reporting that they had never smoked cigarettes was 76.1 percent. The rate of cigar and clove cigarettes was lower in the category of daily use. Counts said, “This low use of tobacco on campus is one of our strongest selling points for this ban. There are 15,000 graduates and undergraduates here so with only under 3 percent smoking daily it makes sense that we have this ban.”
Counts realizes that the motto, “Live Free or Die” is important to New Hampshire citizens, but states that “once it infringes on someone else’s right to live free, or die, than that’s a problem.” Counts also wants students to know about the threat of second hand smoke which according to the Center for Disease Control, 2.5 million nonsmokers since 1964 have died from second hand smoke. The CDC also recommends that smoking bans on public property is one of the way to eliminate second hand smoking.
Counts said, “I do really hope this passes. But if it does there will still be a lot of work to do in terms of implementation. There are parts of the teacher’s contracts that allow them to smoke, so working with the Teacher’s Union and the administration would be the next step if this passes… Clean air, that’s what I am hoping for.”
Emily Counts and Cam Cook also recommended that students come to this Student Senate vote on Nov. 22 at Paul College Room 165, because they look forward to talking with students and hearing the differing points of view. Counts said, “Most people are for this. They’d like to see this. The hardest part will be the implementation.” Counts long-term plan is to see a fine for those caught smoking on campus, and classes held for those who addicted. According to Counts, all of this information is still being decided and will be part of the discussion come the voting date.