SGA continues to look into possibility of smoking ban

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Students often gather outside to smoke cigarettes between classes

Ariel von Quintus

The St. Edward’s University Student Government Association is continuing to research student opinion about St. Edward’s becoming a smoke-free campus.  A smoking committee of six senators has been established to form ideas about how to best gather an accurate representation of student opinion on this issue.

“We are working with the student committee and passing out surveys to actually figure out what is the overall idea of the current policy in place and how people feel about the situation, just to see if people interested in the issue aren’t aware about the issue, and where we’re at,” Senator Octavio Sanchez said.

Senator Marie Maloney helped develop a way to survey students using Quick Response (QR) codes for phones as part of the opinion gathering process. Students can download the QR reader on any smart phone to scan the QR codes. Once the code is scanned, it will take you to SEU’s Twitter account. There is also a link to a separate e-mail account, so anyone can comment on the smoking ban.

“We’ve been getting feedback so far on both sides of the issue, so it’s really nice to find out that there are students who want their voice heard, and they want it heard soon,” Maloney said.

Kiyomi Iihoshi, a student who spoke at the SGA meeting to advocate against having a smoke free campus, asked if the smoking committee was in support of the smoking ban, or if it was neutral.

SGA responded that it was neutral and wanted to bring both sides together so that the argument isn’t one-sided.  SGA has received mostly positive feedback on having a tobacco-free campus, but it also wants to hear from students who oppose a smoke free campus, Maloney said.

“I understand you are working hard towards not being biased by putting out surveys, but as we all know, a survey can’t 100 percent be free of bias, and the way that the questions are set up at this point… I feel like morepeople who are for a smoking free campus are going to put a vote for it whereas smokers, such as me, will not be interested in voting.  I would like to get a more equal setting on this issue,” Iihoshi said.

Maloney responded by saying she helped write the questions on the survey and believes they are neutral.  SGA offered Iihoshi the opportunity to participate on the smoking committee.

SGA also plans to hand out surveys on campus to students through Residence Life, use the QR codes, pass out surveys on constitution day, and have faculty and staff fill out a survey to gather as many opinions as possible.

“I wouldn’t like that. I don’t smoke, but I feel like smokers have rights, and I feel like banning tobacco on campus is a big deal because a lot of people smoke,” junior Matt Martin said. “I think an area where you could smoke, like a smoking area might be good, and I don’t know how, but I think they could definitely enforce the 15-foot rule from the doors.  But I think smokers have rights.”

Another non-smoker, Jessica Florez, suggested that smokers should have a designated smoking area.

“As a non-smoker, [smoking] doesn’t bother me, but I feel that for others, those with asthma, and those that just don’t like the scent of it, or don’t like smelling like it, that smokers should have their own area,” she said. “But I don’t think we should ban smoking, it’s your personal choice.”

Student Courtney Morse, a smoker, said she would agree to smoke in a smoking area.

“I don’t mind if there is a designated area that I have to run off to so that people don’t have to walk by and smell smoke…I understand that, but at the same time I think that I don’t need the SGA to help me, or tell me to quit,” she said.

Student Gina Snow agreed.

“I agree that if they want to make a designated smoking area, that’s fine,” she said. “I think banning it from campus completely is discriminatory.  School is stressful enough, and you get your break, and you want your cigarette.”

Student Katie Bowman said she could understand having a campaign for personal responsibility as far as keeping the campus clean, but also infringing of SGA carried out the policy.

“I feel like [smoking is] a personal choice,” Bowman said.

The idea for a smoke free campus was brought to the SGA’s attention by student Matt Wolski along with assistance from two other students, senior Zac Peal and junior Irma Fernandez.

Wolski said he believes this is a timely issue for the St. Edward’s community to address.

As of Oct. 7, 586 universities have 100% tobacco-free policies with no exceptions in the United States. In Austin, Austin Comminty College and Huston-Tillotson University have implemented policies and the University of Texas and Concordia University are moving towards their own initiatives, in addition to Texas State as of Aug. 1, according to Wolski.

“With tobacco related disease being the number one cause of death for the population both in Travis County and nationwide, it is important that we, as students, take initiative, come together, and discuss the importance of looking into policy on our campus,” Wolski said.

Vice President Ryan Villarreal concluded speaking about the issue at this week’s meeting.

“We are a firm neutral at this point because our goal is not to say this is the opinion of the twelve of us,” he said. “We are going to go to the student body and ask them what they want. The role of SGA is to bring all the opinions together.”

There will be a forum event for this issue in the future for students who want to voice their opinion.