As UPUA’s current term nears a close, the tenth assembly is working to wrap up initiatives and complete year-long efforts. Last night’s weekly meeting saw just that as the assembly went up to vote on one of its most significant efforts: a smoke-free campus.
As it stands now, there are designated smoking areas at Penn State (as well as explicitly-posted “no smoking” areas), but one walk through campus reveals these postings and boundaries are commonly ignored.
Various entities have played with the idea of making Penn State smoke-free since the beginning of the millennium. When the Undergraduate Student Government (USG, the old version of UPUA) looked into banning smoking in 2000, the minority of students supported the effort, according to last night’s legislation. When UPUA revisited the issue seven years later, a survey found those who wanted Penn State to go smoke-free had become the majority, but the policy wasn’t changed.
Almost a year ago, the 9th Assembly’s final piece of legislation was the Kathleen Purcell Clean Air Bill, which tasked the university with studying the cigarette smoke on campus and potentially creating a smoke-free effort. Both the 9th and 10th Assemblies have put work in for a smoke-free campus, and now here we are.
Throughout the term, UPUA compiled a hefty report — 20 pages outline analysis, survey results, and benchmarking of other Big Ten schools to see what might work at Penn State. At last night’s meeting, the Student Life Committee presented Resolution 46-10, “Support of Campus Smoking Policy Report and Recommendations,” which would serve as the student government’s official stance in support of a smoke-free campus if passed.
After the legislation’s initial presentation, the floor was flooded with individuals who wanted their chance to hold the mic and ask a question or provide an opinion. UPUA’s discussions on a smoke-free campus have always drawn lively discussion, and Vice President Terry Ford even took the time to remind the assembly of the two-minute time limit policy when they take the floor.
The first thing the assembly wanted to know, as most students generally would, was what classifies as “smoke.”
“This would not include tobacco products such as…those things,” said Speaker Emily Miller, referring to vaporizers and electronic cigarettes. “It’s not tobacco-free, it’s smoke free — if smoke doesn’t come out of it, it’s not included in this.”
The clarification made way to discussion wherein multiple individuals voiced their concerns about everything from health and safety to freedom. The recommendation is that smoking would be pushed entirely off campus or to designated smoking locations on the outskirts of campus where it’s “kind of hazy” whether or not you’re even on campus.
This sparked a convenience discussion — what if a smoker has back-to-back classes and no time to leave campus for a cigarette? Jennifer Heckman, Director of Communications, also pointed out the safety concern of a student leaving their room at two in the morning to have a cigarette and how impractical it would be to practice safe habits like taking a buddy at that hour.
The assembly also went back and forth about the current policy. College of Engineering Representative Grant Worley was confident enforcing the smoking zones that are already in place would solve the problem, but Eberly Representative Samantha Geisinger is certain “it’s just not going to happen.”
“People don’t listen to signs,” Geisinger said. “There are science and engineering buildings where the smoke enters the building where it’s not supposed to that can affect research.”
When it came to the vote, the outcome was more lopsided than the discussion implied it would be. With a count of 34-4, Resolution 46-10 was adopted and UPUA officially took the stance that University Park should become a smoke-free campus.
The legislation includes 16 recommendations for implementation, but Miller was quick to point out UPUA’s work is, unfortunately, no more than suggestions the student government will pass on to the university.
“This is one step,” Miller said.
This legislation is big for the Tenth Assembly, but only time will tell if the next assembly continues the work and the university backs its undergraduates’ wishes and efforts.