BMichele Halstead, co-chair of the college’s Smoke-Free/Tobacco-Free Campus Committee (SFTFCC), says that with the ideal policy, all forms of smoking including vaping, using JUULs, cigarettes, marijuana and chewing tobacco will be prohibited from use on school grounds by students, visitors and faculty. Halstead maintains the ban will not include “products with nicotine that are supposed to help someone with smoking cessations” such as a nicotine patch or nicotine gum.
A policy as broad as this raises many unanswered questions, such as how the rule will be enforced and where students with nicotine addiction will be allowed to use their products. SUNY New Paltz Director of Communication Melissa Kaczmarek said SUNY Binghamton, who has an active smoking ban, has volunteers patrol campus and inform violators that the campus is smoke-free, requesting they stop smoking. Whether this enforcement will be implemented at SUNY New Paltz or not is yet to be decided.
According to Halstead, in the current phase of implementing the policy, the benchmarking segment of the SFTFCC is reaching out to other SUNY schools who have a similar smoking ban and figuring out how they implement and reinforce their ban. Simultaneously, the wellness segment of the SFTFCC is creating ways to increase resources available to those who want to quit smoking and educate students on its dangers. Once this research is complete, the SFTFCC will send a report to President Christian on April 4, advising him if the policy is feasible or not. If so, the policy will begin to see implementation in the fall of 2020.
Halstead said the school has not applied for any grants thus far in order to raise funding for cessation (smoking abstinence) resources, but she claims the committee is looking into getting them.
The idea of a smoking ban being implemented on campus spawned a wide range of reactions from New Paltz students. While open forums have been held by the Smoke-Free Committee with varying attendance numbers, students also took to Facebook to voice their opinions.
Nick Alfiero, a third-year biology education major, is among the many who view the proposed policy favorably.
“It would decrease secondhand smoke and it would get rid of those cigarette trash bins that are littered and overflowing with cigarettes,” he said.
Countless others view the policy with mixed feelings, such as Chris Cosmai, a third-year student majoring in public relations.
“People have the right to smoke,” he said. I think the idea of having a designated smoking area is actually a good idea because it will keep the people who smoke away from those who don’t want to be affected by secondhand smoke.”
Others disagree with the policy.
“[School officials] already don’t enforce the policy we do have, people will still smoke on campus…people will have nowhere to throw their cigarette butts but on the ground,” said Patrick Salaway, a third-year biology student. “I think the only alternative would just be to leave it as it is.”
“A lot of people who wouldn’t care [or] take it seriously and continue to smoke on campus and there will be a lot of backlash,” Alexa Trippiedi, an undecided first-year student.
Despite the varying opinions, the dangers of smoking are not opinion-based. According to the American Lung Association (ALA), 480,000 people die of smoking or secondhand smoke exposure every year in the U.S. Even e-cigarettes contain harmful chemicals that can cause permanent lung damage and cancer, according to the ALA.
Through varied opinions, New Paltz administration is working with the proposed ban to strike a fair balance between their own goals and the views of the student body and faculty on the issue of campus smoking.