Boise State University officially became a smoke-free campus Aug. 17, 2009. To help reinforce the ban on tobacco smoke, a group called the Fresh Air Advocates was created to help spread the word and encourage tobacco smokers to kick the habit. Every now and then, the Fresh Air Advocates will set up a table on the Boise State Quad, complete with a water-cooler jug full of cigarette butts, free prizes and a trivia wheel.
Their ambition is admirable. The goal of the program is to provide everyone on campus with cleaner air and grounds clear of cigarette butts. However, in practice the policy isn’t terribly effective. There are a few locations now where Boise State’s smoking population congregates, such as at the foot of the much-used Friendship Bridge and other locations along the Green Belt that students frequent to relax and take in the scenery. Smokers who live on campus often step across the Green Belt to stand just outside of university grounds. Another popular spot is the area outside of the College of Western Idaho Culinary Arts Building.
The smoking ban causes a pooling effect. Because students cannot smoke on their way to class or outside the building of their choice, they congregate in areas that are convenient and accessible — where they think they can get away with it. This effect causes a higher concentration of second-hand smoke along the Green Belt, which used to be one of the nicest spots on campus. Now non-smokers cannot cross Friendship Bridge to get to the other side of the Boise River or pass behind the residence halls or the Education Building without inhaling a lung full of smoke.
The Fresh Air Policy does not provide designated smoking areas, nor does it provide ashtrays. Because there are no ashtrays, cigarette butts are dropped on the ground, making the river bank less pleasant for everyone. There are a few possible solutions to the problem.
The first is for smokers at BSU to quit smoking. However, this is not a reasonable expectation. Studies have found that nicotine can be harder to kick than cocaine or heroin. While quitting smoking is doable, it’s not fair to expect it from all fee-paying Boise State students and faculty who partake in the perfectly legal habit.
The other solution is to start enforcing the ban. The current problem is that the policy lacks teeth. Addressing the method of enforcement, the official Smoke-Free Campus frequently asked questions sheet states “Individuals observed smoking are to be reminded in a professional and courteous manner of the university policy. Boise State reserves the right to initiate disciplinary procedures against any individual found to be in continuous violation of this policy.”
The policy guidelines rely on students to police each other, which evidently is not very effective. In order to promote real, rapid change, the university is going to have to lay out some sort of standard punishment for smoking on campus, such as issuing citations.
Perhaps a better option is a compromise. The university should set up a few designated smoking areas in convenient locations, but out of the main thoroughfares. Smokers are going to smoke, so it seems pertinent to give them a place to do so where they won’t slow cross-campus travel or trash the prettiest area of campus. The simple fact that the majority of the Boise State population doesn’t approve of their habit doesn’t make smokers second-class citizens. However, it is not fair to Boise State students who are bothered or made ill by cigarette smoke. University policy should strive to meet the needs of the whole Boise State community, including smokers. Hopefully students will soon see cigarette butts in designated ash-trays instead of on the ground.