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The Student News Site of Stony Brook University

The Statesman

The Student News Site of Stony Brook University

The Statesman

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    SUNY Board of Trustees to Ban Smoking in all Residential Halls

    On January 11, the State University of New York Board of Trustees adopted a policy that will ban smoking in all the remaining resident halls that allow smoking, effective July 1, 2007.

    The policy will affect the remaining nine percent of SUNY residence hall beds where smoking is currently permitted, primarily at Stony Brook, Morrisville and Buffalo State, according to a statement released by the SUNY Board of Trustees.

    Smoking will also be prohibited in campus vehicles as well as all residence halls and apartment buildings owned or operated by SUNY while establishing designated areas, up to the discretion of campus presidents, ‘an appropriate minimum distance from residence halls and apartment buildings, particularly entrances to such buildings, within which smoking is prohibited.’

    Campus presidents are asked to review current awareness education methods regarding the dangers of smoking and second hand smoke as well as cessation programs, in coordination with the school’s student government. One such outlet on campus at Stony Brook is the Student Health Service, who already have cessation programs for students.

    The smoking ban will establish a uniform set of requirements and apply to the entire residence hall in the SUNY system, with over 72,000 beds in 64 campuses statewide.

    SUNY first discussed this new policy at the June 27, 2006 Board of Trustees meeting when Chancellor John R. Ryan directed the SUNY’s Office of Student Life to develop an implementation plan. Prior to adoption by the Board of Trustees, the resolution was reviewed by the Student Assembly as well as the Student Life Committee of the Board of Trustees.

    Many students and faculty were optimistic about this decision. Student Trustee Alyssa Amyotte, president of the Student Assembly and co-chair of the Student Life Committee, said, as quoted from the Board of Trustees press release, ‘This policy will go a long way to enhance the overall health and education of SUNY students. I am especially pleased that the Student Assembly had the opportunity to be involved in its development and will continue to be involved at the campus level during its implementation.’

    Other students, including Sophomore Maryanne Lagunzad, disagreed and argued that, ‘As long as you have consent of the suitemates, it shouldn’t be an issue. This university has allowed it for too long to just ban it so suddenly out of nowhere. It makes no sense- people are going to do it anyways.’

    However, according to Dr. Laura Valente, the Director for Residential Programs, ‘This decision was made by the SUNY Board of Trustees in Albany, not Stony Brook, itself. This discussion also started years ago. Four years ago, I was a representative for Stony Brook council and was asked why smoking wasn’t banned in Residential Halls [at Stony Brook]’hellip;This decision was a long time coming.’

    Opponents to this ban, like New York City based Citizens Lobbying Against Smoker Harassment, CLASH, argue that the numerous bans are a violation of our civil rights that is reminiscent of the Prohibition era, the period in the early 20th century in which alcohol was banned.

    Dr. Valente, when questioned whether the student’s civil liberties were at stake replied, ‘We are confident this is not a violation of civil liberties. All Residential Halls are community living. It is not the same thing as private living in private colleges or off campus housing. This is another step to ensuring the healthiest environment for the community.’

    Still, she also maintained that although the current policy allows for smoking in certain residential halls as long as the consent of all suite or room mates agree, certain medical reasons prevail that supports the ban. ‘One important thing to note is the buildings are technically smoke-free unless everyone in the suite or room agrees [to smoking.] Why not keep it? One problem is that the smoke stays in fabric and carpeting, even if everyone agrees this year, new students next year may be sensitive or have asthma and this can make it difficult for them. Even with agreement policy, people living next door can be bothered by it.’

    One such student who agreed with this idea, senior Jennifer Sandtorv, said ‘I agree with this [the smoking ban decision]. If they want to smoke, they should do it outside. I had neighbors who smoked and it was a bad experience.’

    Some proponents to the ban even suggested that this is a predictable trend which caters to non-smokers preference over smokers. According to Sophomore Adiasha Richards and the RA of Wagner College, Roosevelt Quad, ‘I think the non-smoking within residential halls is a good idea because it is for the comfort of the students and there are a lot more students who are non-smokers than smokers. It is a preference for non-smokers and already most of the rules bend towards non-smokers.’ She also mentioned that in terms of enforcing this policy, ‘In the beginning, it will be harder to enforce because people will disregard it but eventually they will realize that we are serious about this.’ Amy Haskel, the RA of Cardozo College, even mentioned, ‘It might reduce the cost of maintenance because the walls won’t have to be repainted all the time.’

    It is important to realize that SUNY is not the first school to enact such requirements. In two states already, Connecticut and Wisconsin, all smoking within public school residence halls are banned. In addition, private schools also maintain a smoke free environment in either residential halls or all over campus; Harvard University, Princeton University, Boston College, and Carleton College, to name a few. In fact, in 2005 the state of New Jersey enacted a radical approach by banning smoking within all public and private school dormitories. Illinois soon followed in May 2006, also banning smoking in public and private dormitories. Other colleges such as Clark College in Vancouver, Washington have banned smoking all over campus, including the parking lot.

    Megan New House-Bailey, former student and a current TA for CHILL Peer Health Educator Program mentioned that ‘In terms of the dorm situation, I transferred twice, and I had never been at a university where you could smoke. I was very surprised and thought it [Stony Brook] was behind the times compared to where it’s happening everywhere else. So far, the New York State bans smoking in public areas and although dorms are private, NY State owns them.’

    In addition, there is also a proposal by the Campus Environment Committee which provides that no smoking will be allowed anywhere on campus. However, it is still in the decision making process and if accepted, will come into affect two years from now.

    According to the recommendation, ‘A ban on all smoking resolves two problems within the existing policy; the varied size of the non-smoking radius at campus entrances (15 feet versus 50 feet), and the problems associated with smoking-related litter.’ In addition, this may also help the university negotiate lower health insurance premiums for faculty, staff, and students, says the proposal.

    The proposed plan, however, is facing opposition from campus clubs like the Graduate Student Organization and NYPIRG.

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