Smokers So Far Complying With University | Cigarettes Blog

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Smokers So Far Complying With University

Several times last week, Julee Stearns strolled along Arthur and Beckwith avenues offering free-drink coupons to smokers standing in the grassy area between the street and the sidewalk.

"Thank you for following the cigarettes online policy," said Stearns, a University of Montana health promotion specialist.

The cigarettes-free campus policy went into effect on the UM campus on Sunday, Aug. 28, the day before fall semester classes began. Ashtrays once located 25 feet from building entrances are now placed along the outskirts of campus.

After a yearlong educational campaign - where UM spent time and money hanging posters, sending out emails and visiting campus groups - the effort appeared effective.

"It's been a lot of work," Stearns said. "I was really happy to see people cooperating. I knew they would embrace the change, I just didn't know how long it would take."

Public safety officers did not respond to any complaints of smokers on the interior of campus during the ban's first week and dozens of students ventured to the outskirts to take drags on pipes and cigarettes.

"We have been getting pretty good compliance," said Gary Taylor, director of UM Public Safety. "We haven't had any real problems. I think all of them are figuring out what we're doing."

On Saturday, Aug. 27, as one last smoking cigarettes hurrah, about 30 students gathered in the Oval to puff one last time. It was called the Great Missoulian Smoke Up and was organized by a UM student as an event that wasn't a protest so much as a kiss goodbye to the convenience smokers once enjoyed.

Stearns recognizes the sacrifice smokers are making. It's a serious addiction, she said.

That's why Stearns wanted to thank students, faculty and staff members for complying with the policy. Her walkabouts also proved helpful in answering questions students and employees may have about the policy.

Most of the students were grateful for a free drink and said thank you. Some were technically standing on campus property, but Stearns used the opportunity to point out the boundary lines and thanked them for coming so close to following the cigarettes-free policy.

"This is way better idea than passing out tickets on the Oval," replied one student, who was grateful for a free drink.

One gentleman had no problem following the no-tobacco policy during the weekdays, but questioned whether Griz fans would comply with the policy during home football games.

The Public Safety chief agreed.

"That will the litmus test of the whole thing," Taylor said.

Event staff and law enforcement plan to educate the community about the new tobacco-free policy. The university purchased sunglasses cases, hand warmers and other giveaway items with the tobacco-free logo as a way to spread the word. There are signs in tailgate areas and banners hanging from lightposts.

Law enforcement won't be enforcing the policy with tickets unless a repeat offender refuses to quit smoking cigarettes or chewing tobacco on campus, Taylor said. The university is encouraging peer enforcement.

Those Griz fans interested in smoking cigarettes will need to leave campus property before lighting up.

A Tobacco Task Force was appointed this summer to assess the policy.

Since 2006, the university has given out more than a 1,000 smoking cigarettes-cessation kits to help those who want to quit smoking cigarettes.

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