Students advocate for enforcement of smoking laws

Janeal Downs
Staff Writer

Five VCU students presented “Dissolving the Smokescreen” to educate an audience of almost 80 people on current smoking policies in the MCALC building Friday afternoon.

As teaching assistants in Nicole Anderson Ellis’ Focused Inquiry classes, Brandon Geib, Forum Sanghavi, Shivang Shah, Jessica Shim and Caroline Sorey were presented asked to find something they wanted to change on campus.

“[Smoking] was something that really spoke to me and I feel like really resonated within me … our school is really big on promoting health,” said biology and international studies major sophomore Forum Sanghavi. “We all thought this is applicable to not just us but a good portion of the student body.”

The students told the audience that a bill passed by the General Assembly states people will be fined $25 if they smoke within 25 feet of a public building. During their presentation, the students showed pictures of multiple people breaking this law.

“We have nothing against smokers, because that’s not what this is about. It’s just enforcing the smoking policy in front of buildings where even non-smokers come in,” Sanghavi said. “No one wants to walk through a cloud of smoke when they’re trying to go to the library.”

The students presented facts about smoking. About 7,000 chemicals and 70 cancer causing chemicals are found in secondhand smoke, they said, and studies have shown carbon monoxide from secondhand smoke is more dangerous than car fumes that pollute the air.

“We were looking at other ways other campuses have gone about it in order to figure out what we want to do here,” said sophomore graphic design major Brandon Geib.

They suggested to begin by educating people about this law with a one semester where students are first given a warning rather than fined for smoking within 25 of buildings. After the trial semester, they suggested the policy be enforced. They also proposed offering smoking cessation classes through The Wellness Resource Center.

“We really want the campus and VCU police to work toward maintaining the policy and enforcing it, because it’s not really enforced right now,” Geib said. “People aren’t aware of it … so our big recommendation is putting signs around buildings so it’s clear.”

Not only were students from Ellis’ class present but also parents and other students.

Freshman biology major Irmarie Aleria attended the presentation for extra credit after hearing about it in her Focused Inquiry class.

“It was really cool. I didn’t know about the law or policy that you had to stand 25 feet (away while smoking),” Aleria said. “I would let (others) know of course about the policy and all the other stuff they can can get involved with.”

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