VCU is not doing anything to diminish the Monroe Park campus’ reputation as the heart of cigarette city.
Despite popular belief, there is no $25 dollar fine from VCU for students or faculty who choose to smoke outside of designated smoking areas and closer than 25 feet from campus building entrances. The smoking policy on the Monroe Park Campus hasn’t changed since 1993.
“As far as there being a fine, I mean, we don’t do that,” said Cathleen Burke, Assistant Vice President for Human Resources at VCU.
“Employees are expected to follow university policies and regulations,” Burke said. “And as a supervisor or manager you are expected to make sure they are followed.”
Forum Sanghavi, a sophomore majoring in international relations and biology, said she has never seen the policy enforced on campus.
“Around campus, when I walk into buildings like the library or Brandt Hall, there was always smoke everywhere because there was no enforcement of the 25-foot policy,” Sanghavi said.
She and her colleagues in a Focused Inquiry class were frustrated enough to make the policy and the issue of smoking on campus the focus of their group presentation. She said that she thinks part of the problem is that most people aren’t really sure how to visualize what 25 feet looks like.
Sanghavi said that if you take about 10 big strides from the door you arrive, more or less, at the 25 foot mark.
One way to make sure that everyone knows where they can smoke on campus is to make it illegal entirely like the VCU Health System. As of June 30, 2010, smoking has been banned from about 20 square blocks of the downtown campus.
Larry Little, Vice President of Support Services at VCU Health System, said that they enforce the policy with a “smoking patrol” who monitors the campus 24 hours a day. Much like on the Monroe Park Campus, the patrol’s penalties aren’t very severe.
“The penalty is … we just ask them politely to take it to an off-street or a street that is not adjacent to our facilities,” Little said.
Little said that most people comply and simply didn’t know about the policy that they were violating.
Administrators at VCUHS worked for over a year on the smoke-free policy, and consulted many community leaders and existing policies in place at medical campuses and hospitals across the state and country.
Little said that at first some people were upset about losing their rights as smokers, but they come around once you explain the goal of trying to provide a healthy and safe environment for patients.
“At the very beginning when we implemented this, we received an overwhelming number of compliments, especially in and around the Massey Cancer facility,” Little said.
In the cases of both campuses, electronic cigarettes and other nicotine vaporizers are considered tobacco products along with traditional cigarettes.