No butts: Smoking ban will be self-enforced

A K-State student smokes a cigarette in the designated smoking area outside the K-State Student Union. (Photo Illustration by Parker Robb | Collegian Media Group)

Since Kansas State’s new smoke-free policy took effect on June 1, students who choose to smoke or vape outside their personal vehicles anywhere on campus will be breaking the Student Code of Conduct. Faculty and staff, too, are barred from smoking on campus for the greater benefit of clean air. But, much like the smoking policies of other Kansas universities, K-State’s smoking ban will be “self-enforced.”

Craig Johnson, member of the ‘Cats for Clean Air Committee and associate director of operations for the K-State Student Union, said the university is adhering to a “friendly” enforcement of the smoking ban, though disciplinary action is written into the policy.

“It is my understanding the police will not be involved with this in any form,” Johnson said. “There is some ability to enforce it through corrective action. … That’s built into the policy, but that’s not how we want to try and start off anyway. I’m sure at some point if it gets to be a real problem, then [fines are] kind of a fallback.”

Self-enforced tobacco bans appear to work well for other universities because it seems social pressure is enough to dissuade smokers from lighting one up.

Rita Girth, co-chair for the Tobacco Policy Task Force at Pittsburg State University, a school that went completely tobacco free back in 2015, said they even made a script and business cards to make approaching a smoker easier.

“We did not want to include law enforcement because … this policy was not to punish smokers or come across as a punishment,” Girth said. “We wanted to keep a positive spin on creating a healthy environment for our students and faculty to learn and live in.”

Captain Guy Schroeder of the Wichita State University Police Department said since going smoke-free in July 2017 there is a noticeable difference in air quality on the WSU campus, noting that building exits are not shrouded in secondhand smoke. He said though some faculty continue to smoke outside back doors, the police have only given one citation for smoking.

The move to a completely smoke-free campus will be a community effort at K-State because even nonsmokers will play a role, Johnson said, and Wildcats have to remind one another of the new policy.

“We’re really encouraging this as an effort for the K-State family to encourage others, to remind them of the policy,” Johnson said. “We don’t want to take stringent action, at least to start off with. We really want to encourage people, and remind them that, yes, this policy is in effect for everybody’s health benefit.”

Cindy Bontrager, vice president for administration and finance, said the transition to a completely smoke-free campus could take a while, but she said she is confident in the community.

“We don’t have, really, any way to seriously enforce [the smoking ban],” Bontrager said. “We don’t have enough security officers or police officers. It’s not a felony or anything like that, so we’re going to be looking for the campus community for help reminding people that we’re a smoke-free campus and just hoping we build a stronger culture of smoke-free. It takes some time, based on conversations that we had with other universities’ administrators.”

Julie Gibbs, director of health promotion at Lafene Health Center, said K-Staters looking for help quitting smoking are welcome to talk to a provider about treatments such as prescriptions or nicotine replacement therapy and to come speak with the dietitian, which is free for students and available at a low cost to K-State faculty and staff.

In the Lafene Pharmacy, there are free “quit kits,” which contain a KanCare card for free counseling, gum, toothpicks, a squishy stress cloud and tips for quit strategies and for staying healthy while quitting.

K-State Police have not issued any warnings or citations for smoking since the policy change last Friday.