UT Clears the Air

Published: Aug 26, 2013
Enforcing the zones will be “smoke-free ambassadors.”
Enforcing the zones will be “smoke-free ambassadors.”
As of Aug. 1, 2013, the use of all tobacco products is prohibited on campus except in four designated smoke zones.
As of Aug. 1, 2013, the use of all tobacco products is prohibited on campus except in four designated smoke zones.

Change is in the air at UT — quite literally. As of Aug. 1, 2013, the use of all tobacco products is prohibited on campus except in four designated smoke zones. That means no cigarettes, cigars, cigarillos or bidis, no chewing tobacco, no shisha or hookah, even e-cigarettes are banned except in specific zones.

For nonsmokers, the policy change means less exposure to secondhand smoke.

“There are people in my sorority with asthma and other lung conditions that are affected by secondhand smoke,” said Laura Manke ’14, student coordinator for Breathe Easy UT, a Live Well at UT initiative that championed the policy change.

Manke is a public health major with a self-professed passion for wellness. She said it was working at a gym that helped her realize her passion is helping to prevent disease, rather than treat disease.

“This new policy is important because this affects the health of the overall community,” she said.

UT is not alone in making this change. Universities comparable in size and program area to UT, such as Butler University in Indianapolis, have successfully created smoke zones. Seven of UT’s fellow Independent Colleges and Universities of Florida (ICUF) institutions have instituted smoke zones, including Beacon College, Hodges University, Jacksonville University, Keiser University, Ringling College of Art and Design, Rollins College and the University of Miami. Locally, the University of South Florida has moved to smoke zones and Hillsborough Community College is 100 percent smoke free.

Manke said many universities who’ve started with zones have moved to 100 percent smoke-free campuses. She sees that as something UT will do eventually — Breathe Easy UT collected more than 1,000 signatures of UT students, faculty and staff that want to go smoke-free — though she is hesitant to put a timeline on it.

“If we (Breathe Easy UT) could, we would do it tomorrow, but it takes time,” she said.

For now the focus will be on promoting the new smoke zones and free tobacco cessation classes offered to all UT students, faculty and staff.

“If people want help to quit smoking, we offer it here on campus,” said Mary Martinasek, assistant professor in public health. “If we can help someone to quit, they might influence others to do so.”

Zone 1 is outside David A. Straz Jr. Hall near the baseball field, Zone 2 is by the Hillsborough River, between the Macdonald-Kelce Library and McKay Hall, Zone 3 is on the north side of the Thompson Building and Zone 4 is in Delo Park in front of Alfred and Beverly Austin Hall. Each zone will be outfitted with picnic tables and umbrellas as well as ash trays to encourage smokers to dispose properly of their cigarette butts.

Enforcing the zones will be “smoke-free ambassadors.” There are currently about 20 ambassadors, trained to approach those smoking outside the zones in a positive manner and let them know smoking is only allowed in specific areas of campus.

Manke said the first smoke-free ambassador training was held in the spring, explaining what Breathe Easy UT is and what ambassadors are expected to do. She explained that if an ambassador were to see someone smoking outside of a designated zone, they would approach that person and hand them a postcard-size map of the zones with information on the smoking cessation classes offered at UT.

Manke said there are no penalties for smoking outside the zone at this time.

“That would make it so negative, and we’re trying to make this positive and offer solutions,” she said. “We’re not just telling you to go to a zone. We’re also offering you a way out.”

For additional information, visit www.ut.edu/wellness/smoking or call the Wellness Center at (813) 257-1877.

To read more on the smoking zones and other health initiatives at UT, check out the Fall 2013 edition of the UT Journal.

Watch a WFLA video on this story.

By Kiley Mallard, Writer/Editor