With January marking the second birthday of the University of Maine’s Tobacco-Free Campus Initiative, it seems an appropriate time to encourage UMaine Public Safety to employ the only style of rule-enforcement truly effective with any 2 year old: strict directives with clear consequences.
Based on the responses of a sample of 100 UMaine students, there is generally perceived to be less cigarette smoking on campus since the initiative’s inception. However, because there is a significant number of smokers who continue to do so, the initiative is still only seen by about half of the sample group as being “effective.” The fact that a significant number of students continue to smoke on the grounds, albeit typically in an unobtrusive manner, suggests that the “ban” is beheld more as gentle discouragement.
Dean of Students Robert Dana claims that the purpose of the initiative is not to police students and punish them for tobacco-related infractions, but rather to protect those students who have chosen not to use tobacco from being unwillingly subjected to it second-hand, and to provide an opportunity for tobacco users to stop smoking.
This is a nice idea; but whether the intent of the initiative is to punish or to support, the fact is that a set of consequences has been outlined for an escalating series of violations. If those consequences are not consistently imposed on people who choose to disregard the rules that are in place, it is no wonder that people ignore them and continue to clandestinely consume their cigs in certain on-campus locations.
Holding the threat of punishment for smoking on campus over the heads of UMaine community members may seem like an undesirable task, and will undoubtedly be met with distaste from the student population. But, after only two years of the ban — and one year of its “enforcement” — it may be the singular way to communicate to students that it is even remotely in their better interests to comply. Leave it to the 10- and 12-year-old initiatives to inspire rational and responsible self-governance. At this point, half of the students at the university remember when smoking outside was entirely acceptable, and where old habits die hard, addictive habits die harder.
As a university, we are no longer on a continuum, slowly inching away from smoking inside classrooms and buying cigarettes in the bookstore. We have reached the other end, where we’re supposedly cracking down on tobacco use and eradicating it from the entire campus property for the sake of public health. It’s time to fish or cut bait. Roughly 60 percent of students interviewed answered that they do believe UMaine should be tobacco free, so it would seem that as a population we generally support the enforcement of these regulations. So don’t hold back: Show the scofflaws the UMaine administration isn’t just paying lip service to public health.