SGA Votes to Explore Smoke-Free Campus Policy

On Tuesday, September 24, the Student Government Association (SGA) voted to approve a measure that seeks to investigate the feasibility of a “smoke-free” campus. The resolution passed 36-6-0.

The resolution recommends that a committee, made of a yet-to-be-determined mix of students and administrators, be formed to explore the idea of a smoke-free campus and make recommendations to the university

administration. SGA President senior Samuel Flood expects the committee to be solidified over the next two to three weeks.

Flood first became interested in the issue of smoking on campus during his work with the World Health Organization Tobacco-free initiative last year. After crafting a memorandum sent to President Herbst advocating a smoke-free policy for campus, Flood along with Senators junior Rob Carroll. senior Carolina Swift, sophomore Maggie Moskowitz and senior Caroline Kraeutler authored the resolution which passed on October 15.

Currently, there is a degree of inconsistency in Colgate’s smoking policy. The 2008-2009 Residential Life Handbook indicates that smoking is permitted “outdoors, at least 10 feet away from entrances to buildings.” However, the 2013-2014 Student Handbook uses less definitive language, recommending that “individuals who choose to smoke outside should consider moving a reasonable distance from any building entrances.” The policy is rarely enforced, however.

According to the 2012 CORE Alcohol and Drug Survey, a total of 33.2 percent reported smoking at least once annually – of which two percent of students responded that they smoke daily, 3.7 percent smoked once weekly, eight percent smoked once or twice every 30 days and 16 percent smoked once, all of which are below the national average.

A major hurdle for the committee in enacting a smoke-free campus policy is enforcement. Campus Safety has expressed reluctance to take on this additional enforcement responsibility, which has led supporters of the policy to look to other alternatives.

“It would have to be a paradigm shift in the way that students approach smoking, and we have to self-correct and self-police smokers on campus, rather than have Campus Safety serve as the watchdog,” Flood said.

The committee will also look into Colgate’s idiosyncrasies, which include the tradition of smoking cigars after the torchlight ceremony, how it would be applied to alumni during reunion weekend as well as the difficulty of leaving the large self-contained campus in order to smoke.

SGA Senator senior Santiago Sandoval opposed the resolution because he said it sets the wrong set of priorities for the SGA.

“We already have a tough time enforcing the rules that we have in place,” Sandoval said. “Campus Safety really is seen as the bad guys around here, and I think that would make it even worse. Stressing that relationship even further would not be good for the university because Campus Safety is supposed to be seen as Campus Safety, not ‘Campo’ or the ‘Campus Police.'”

Sandoval also said that, in his experience, secondhand smoke wasn’t an issue on campus.

“I’m a non-smoker and I have never felt that people smoking has impacted my health in a negative way,” Sandoval said.

First-year senator Christopher Sulkowski, a smoker, voted against the resolution because he was concerned that smokers did not have a say in the process.

“You need at least two or three smokers in the committee,” Sulkowski said.

Of Colgate’s neighboring campuses, Morrisville State

College was slated to go tobacco-free in 2014 as part of

legislative mandate. However, that bill was not brought to the floor of the New York State Assembly before it expired. Morrisville State currently bans smoking within a 20-foot perimeter of all buildings. Hamilton College has a 25-foot perimeter around all campus buildings, and violations of the smoking policy are integrated into Hamilton’s disciplinary points system.

Contact Nate Lynch at [email protected]