Committee smokes-out student opinion

Smoke break Blair Parker (left) and Morgan Moritz pause for a cigarette between classes during the trial smoking ban. Students who wished to smoke were asked to remain 30 feet away from entrances to the Memorial Union Nov. 5-17 to test the waters on how smoking restrictions would be received by students.

Travis Perry

Wednesday, 25 people showed up to discuss smoking restrictions on campus at the townhall meeting in Memorial Union.

Of those who were there to voice their thoughts on the issue, smoking decision committee creator Angel Romero was happy with the discussion and ideas brought up.

On the main topic of whether or not smoking is a major problem on campus, mixed responses mingled among attendees, but Heath Barnhart, senior computer information sciences major, said he believed it had become less of an issue than it was in the past.

“I’ve noticed people are not smoking as much as they have in the past,” said Barnhart. “As a former smoker, [I have] noticed that over the last couple of years, smoking has declined at a natural rate.”

Barnhart noted specifically that four years ago the number of smokers outside Henderson during ‘peak hours,’ between 9 a.m. and 3 p.m., has decreased from an average of around 19 people to five or six.

While suggestions ranging from declaring specific smoke-free zones to simply having no regulations on smoking were discussed, the compromise that was shown between both smokers and non-smokers was surprising to many in attendance.

“I don’t like to walk out of the door and smell like smoke immediately,” said David Reno, senior philosophy major and smoker. “I think that if [smokers] expect to have our rights appreciated, then we need to appreciate the rights of non-smokers as well.”

While Reno seemed to voice an agenda not expected of many smokers, other opinions were surprising as well. Mike Kerls, senior political science major, said that while he was not a smoker himself, he did have many friends who were, and thought that the trial smoking ban, which was in place on campus Nov. 5-17, was offensive to himself and his friends.

“In the grand scheme of things, that was sending a message to smokers that they weren’t welcome within 30 feet of the Union,” said Kerls.

A point repeated throughout the night was that the committee was not designed to create any kind of restriction or ban on smoking on campus. Rather, its goal is to gather information on student opinion to put in a final report in February, which will be presented to the Washburn Student Government Association.

“As far as an outcome from this [meeting], I’m pretty sure there’s not going to be one,” said David Crawford, senior theatre major, “as it was all pretty much just general discussion.”

Crawford, one of the more outspoken attendees at the meeting, said that by putting a restriction in place, he found himself more inclined to smoke within 30 feet of Union entrances, simply because it had become an issue.

“We didn’t see ourselves as a problem because we weren’t standing in people’s way – weren’t even close to a door,” said Crawford. “But then all of a sudden it’s a big problem on campus, there’s smokers at all the doorways, when we didn’t see any of that.”

Ultimately, some of the final conclusions that were gathered from the meeting were the possibilities of creating designated smoking zones and/or smoke-free zones, banning smoking within buildings and specifically addressing the state of the walkway along the south side of Morgan Hall. Many who spoke about that specific area of campus stated that it was a highly congested area, and the presence of smoke in such a constricted area was causing many problems for students passing.

“We’ve in no way made a final decision now,” said Romero.