Thursday, November 10, 2011

Policy change ‘singles out’ tobacco users

Tobacco-free policy a national ‘growing trend’ on campuses

By Courtney Donlin, News Editor

Cheers and jeers welcomed the ban against tobacco on Pacific Lutheran’s campus.

PLU’s Office of the President released a statement to the campus Nov. 3 announcing the transition into a tobacco-free campus, scheduled to begin Feb. 8, 2012. The ban will not be enforced entirely until June 1, 2012. The statement described spring semester’s initial ban as voluntary.

ASPLU Senator and Representative for the Tobacco-Free Task Force Committee sophomore Ian Kinder-Pyle said ASPLU had not been contacted about a potential smoking ban since the 2010-2011 academic year, when nursing students approached the student organization.

“The resolution they gave to us didn’t get a sponsorship,” Kinder-Pyle said. “We passed a resolution supporting Washington state law instead.”

A copy of the resolution, titled “In Support of Making PLU Smoke-Free,” was included in the Oct. 14 issue of the Mast. The resolution read, “ASPLU will encourage its members to support the smoke free campus policy change,” and “ASPLU will urge the responsible party to put this policy into action.”

Around mid-October, Kinder-Pyle became the ASPLU representative to the new ban.

“We were not informed of the ban or the forthcoming policy,” Kinder-Pyle said. “They just asked for a representative.”

Kinder-Pyle, who emphasized ASPLU’s mission to represent student opinion, said he has heard opinions from both sides of the debate from friends and classmates. However, none of these opinions came before the ban was put in motion, and so cannot be considered represented by the ban.

ASPLU Senator junior Ian Metz said he felt “as though student opinion was ignored in this case.”

“I feel as though tobacco users are being singled out,” Metz said.

Juniors Ryan Grant and Kyle Burbridge said students were under-represented in the new ban.

“I’m not thrilled to see a top-down decision from a president who won’t see the ramifications of it,” Burbridge said.

Vice President of Finance and Operations Sheri Tonn said policy changes regarding tobacco use on campus are “a growing trend throughout the country.” According to the statement, more than 500 colleges in the U.S. have recently adopted tobacco- or smoke-free policies.

Around 50 people attended the Tobacco-Free Task Force Committee’s forum Wednesday evening. Participants both booed and cheered during the discussion.

Director of Residential Life Tom Huelsbeck, who is part of the Tobacco-Free Task Force Committee, acknowledged the difficulty behind the transition to a tobacco-free campus.

“We realize that this is a big cultural shift here, and that it’s happening mid-year,” Huelsbeck said.

Enforcement also appears to be a difficult topic. When asked about enforcement by a participant Huelsbeck responded, “That’s a really good question.” Tonn said tobacco “won’t be banned from purses.”

Lifestyle choice was also a factor for students opposed to the policy change.

“PLU may be progressive, in a way, to take away something that could potentially harm us,” Grant said, “but wouldn’t it be more progressive to give us a choice?”

Metz echoed Grant’s opinion.

“I see it as a threat to lifestyle choices,” Metz said.