VCU implements university-wide smoking and tobacco ban

All smoke and tobacco products are now banned on VCU's outdoor campus as per a policy enacted Monday. The change is supported by most students, according to a study by the Massey Cancer Center. CT file photo

Anya Sczerzenie, Contributing Writer

Starting Monday, all smoke and tobacco products have been banned on VCU’s outdoor campus. Designated smoking areas for cigarettes, e-cigarettes and vapes are currently unchanged.

The policy, enacted the same day the minimum age to buy tobacco products rose to 21 in Virginia, was approved on Thursday. It applies to students, faculty, staff and visitors.

Smoke and vapor products are prohibited on university-owned property, including buildings and vehicles. The policy will be implemented during the summer and through the upcoming academic year, with signs used to mark areas where smoking is allowed. 

The ban does not apply to smoking cessation products such as nicotine gum. One of the goals of this ban is to encourage students to quit smoking, according to the university’s news site. 

Research by Bernard Fuemmeler and Elizabeth Do of VCU’s Massey Cancer Center indicates most students and staff are in favor of the smoking ban, and many students who smoke want to quit. 

Tobacco use and second-hand smoke cause cancer and heart disease and contribute to the highest rate of disease-related death,” said Fuemmeler, associate director for cancer prevention at Massey Cancer Center, in the news release. “As providers and promoters of health, it is important that we align our policies with our values that focus on improving community health and well-being.”

Sophomore arts major Claire Deely said that she believes the ban will positively impact her experience on campus by reducing secondhand smoke.

“I have had a few experiences where I’m walking down the street and the person in front of me blows a cloud of smoke, which goes into my face,” said Deely. “It’s just an example of people not being considerate of their surroundings.”

Biology major Mariel Suarez said she wonders what the repercussions will be for those that smoke on the sidewalk. 

“I have a couple places where I like to smoke after classes,” Suarez said. “I’m kind of worried about how far away the smoking areas will be.”

According to the policy, students who use tobacco products or smoke on campus are subject to discipline under the Student Code of Conduct

There is no predetermined sanction for students who violate the Code of Conduct. Punishment is determined on a case-by-case basis. 

Some students questioned how effective the ban will be, considering VCU’s campus is intertwined with the city of Richmond, which does not have anti-smoking regulations.

“I don’t think [the ban is] going to work, especially for the area by the Compass,” said senior Ruth Pearson. “People will especially vape outside of designated areas, though smokers tend to be more considerate. The ban will make VCU look good for trying to encourage students to quit smoking, but you can only lead a horse to water, not make it drink.”

Junior student Derek Carll said though he agrees with the ban, it may be hard to enforce.

“I don’t know how much of a difference it will make,” Carll said. “Being in the middle of the city, what constitutes ‘campus’ could be separated by mere inches from public areas.”

Fuemmeler and Do’s research was funded in March by a Tobacco-Free Generation Campus Initiative grant, provided by CVS Health Foundation and the American Cancer Society. The grant was intended to support research into a smoke- and tobacco-free campus policy at VCU. Such policies have already been implemented at other universities. From 2012 to 2017, the number of smoke-free university campuses in the United States increased from 774 to 2,082 according to the Centers for Disease Control

The VCU Office of Safety and Risk Management, VCU Human Resources, the Massey Cancer Center and The Well will work together to offer smoking cessation programs and resources for students and staff during the new academic year.

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