About 28.8 percent of college students have smoked cigarettes, according to a fall 2009 survey of 34,208 collegians by the American College Health Association. MSUM’s Office of Campus Sustainability is trying to decide an effective way to get rid of the cigarette butts and smoke that are consuming the campus; fighting the same battle that MSUM has been battling for years.
“Everyone has the right of clean air,” said Joseph Herbst, MSUM sustainability coordinator, “just as much as smokers have the right to smoke.”
But no one wants to walk on cigarette butts when entering MSUM campus or see smokers loitering at the main entrance on 11th street.
“The campaign didn’t go far enough for smokers to fully understand,” said Herbst regarding MSUM’s previous campaigns to reduce cigarette butt litter. Herbst thinks a contributor is a lack of knowledge in locating designated smoking areas and a lack of awareness to smoking students. “We have ashtrays on the trashcans,” said Herbst. “Although there is a non-smoking sign right on the trashcans.”
Herbst said there are several complaints that students don’t smoke at the designated smoking areas, unless it’s enforced by campus security. Although, there is debate that if MSUM is truly a non-smoking campus then the smoking receptacles located on campus should be removed, as it encourages smoking.
“There are 13 designated smoking locations around campus,” said Jeff Goebel, MSUM physical plant manager, “although they are located north of Dahl, they may not stay next year because of complaints of cigarette butts.”
According to Goebel, MSUM can make as many designated smoking areas and cigarette butt containers around campus as desired, but unless it’s enforced, students will continue their routine behaviors.
Completely banning smoking from MSUM just makes the littering someone else’s issue, by pushing it off campus instead of stopping the littering completely. Goebel said that MSUM campus tried to be a smoke-free campus in the past years, but students and faculty would smoke on neighboring properties surrounding campus. There were several complaints about littering, so MSUM had to create designated smoking areas around campus instead.
In addition, sidewalks surrounding campus are considered public property, so smokers may smoke there. When the smoking policy was first enacted, smokers collected across the street from campus, and neighbors were finding butts on their property. Goebel said this is still an issue for MSUM today.
“The issue is not necessarily making designated smoking areas, but for cops to enforce students to use the designated areas,” said Goebel. There is debate of having a ‘kick the habit’ conference in the beginning of the school year, providing students with more knowledge about quit smoking services on campus.
Campus Sustainability wants to create a convenient, designated smoking area for students.
In addition, MSUM hopes to establish more awareness for smokers on campus and create cautious smokers.
“Peer education, which I think is more valuable than 1,000 Facebook posts or 20,000 flyers, is the best when it comes from other students,” Herbst said. “It is better to tell the story as relatable or sticky information.”
According to Herbst, MSUM is reaching the limit on actions to solve the cigarette butt litter crisis; it’s now up to the students. It’s time for students to take action, and make a difference on campus. Advocate for smokers to be more cautious and aware, or form a group of students to clean up butts. Solutions and ideas are appreciated and considered by the MSUM Office of Sustainability.
The MSUM Office of Sustainability’s initiative is dedicated to promoting and developing sustainable practices, which will reduce the university’s impact on the environment.
“Campus sustainability isn’t just about greening the campus, it’s about giving the students the opportunity to get some out-of-class experience in problem solving and critical thinking,” Herbst said.
BY SAMANTHA STARK