Like many other universities across the country, Auburn made the final push to go entirely smoke-free by eliminating the designated smoking areas on campus and by banning all smoke-able tobacco products. The bans included cigarettes, cigars, tobacco pipes, hookahs and e-cigarettes.
“The spark of it was the result of a student letter to [President Jay] Gogue where he asked the president, essentially, for Auburn University to go smoke-free and their concern for the health effects on others by second-hand smoke,” said Christine Eick, executive manager of risk management and safety for Auburn University.
“Each governance group, meaning the Student Government Association, faculty senate, the staff council and the administrative professional assembly, were all supportive of going smoke free,” Eick said. “So their votes passed in support of doing so.”
Rather than ban tobacco products outright from the start, the University initiated a multi-stage program to phase out smoking in places deemed harmful to non-smokers, beginning with the creation of designated smoking zones, a government-approved distance of 25 feet from doors and walkways.
While never intended to be a permanent solution, it became clear that designated zones could only function some of the time, when it was a convenience to the smoker.
“I’m not saying you can’t smoke, I’m not saying I’m against smoking. I’m just saying that when I walk to class in the morning, I want to be able to not breathe in smoke,” said Scottie Brown, senior in journalism. “If it stayed in the designated areas, that would be fine, but I see them smoking right outside the door.”
There are no penalties if you get caught smoking on campus, nor any fines to pay, as was the rumor at the beginning of the year.
The evolution to smoke-free permanence also came with a solution for students: the Auburn University Harrison School of Pharmacy has a step-by-step program to assist you in quitting nicotine for good, complete with a “Pack It Up” to help motivate and keep students on track.
Despite being a solution to the problem many have complained about in the past, some people would rather make the decision for themselves instead of allowing the school to be the deciding factor.
“People’s personal lives are their personal lives, and no one should butt into that. I worked at Disney World for six months, and they have designated smoking zones all over the park, and it’s just away from kids, and away from tourists,” said Taylor Carr, senior in sociology. “It’s not banned at all; there are spots for it in the Magic Kingdom. I think the designated zones were the perfect middle ground between the two different parties here, and I’ve seen that work fine before where 60,000 people go everyday, so why not a campus of 25,000?”
Eick said it’s a decision that’s been taken out of the hands of Auburn students, but one in which they did much of the groundwork to inform the administration.
E-cigarettes, in particular, have proven to be something of a slippery slope as they aren’t technically tobacco products and can vary greatly from user to user, but still contain unsafe levels of nicotine that could potentially harmful to non-users in the vicinity.
“The whole premise of the smoke-free policy was the health benefits of the person who’s choosing not to smoke, and there’s just not a lot of good research on electronic cigarettes,” Eick said. “So we were looking to federal agencies in their standards, we primarily looked to the Food and Drug Administration. They say the e-cigarette is a tobacco product and so it kind of comes under that jurisdiction.”
Regardless of student’s decision to smoke or not to smoke, most can appreciate the push to improve the quality of life for all involved.
“We have received so much positive feedback from people, I think sometimes the focus is on the negative aspects of change, but we have received many more ‘thank yous’ than complaints,” Eick said. “I’m administering a policy asked for by the community.”