As the Yale community debates the possibility of a campuswide smoking ban, the question of how such a ban would affect New Haven residents remains unanswered.
Unlike more secluded smoking-free universities like the University of Florida, the Yale campus is closely integrated into the city of New Haven — a relationship that adds potential complications to the possible Yale-wide smoking ban. Yale HEALTH and the Tobacco-Free Yale Workgroup said they plan to explore how other universities have implemented campuswide bans in their research for the prospective proposal. While the Board of Aldermen approved Yale-New Haven Hospital’s request to extend their smoking ban to city sidewalks surrounding the hospital’s campus in January 2009, Ward 7 Alderwoman Frances “Bitsie” Clark, a former smoker herself, said a ban spanning the entire Yale campus would greatly involve the city of New Haven.
“Yale can do anything they please on their property, but the campus is full of city streets,” she said.
At the same time, President of the Board of Aldermen and Ward 29 Alderman Carl Goldfield said smoking bans can only have positive effects. For Goldfield, a former smoker, societal pressure proved a strong incentive for quitting the habit.
“The fewer places I was allowed smoke, the more people said to me ‘stop smoking your smoke is bothering me,’ the easier it was for me to decide to stop,” Goldfield said. ”It was the best thing I ever did besides marrying my wife.”
The social effect of a smoking ban is one of the primary reasons Yale is considering a possible ban on campus, Director of Yale Health Paul Genecin said.
“Smoke-free organizations and campuses actually help people to quit,” he said. “They also empower nonsmokers to ask smokers to put out their cigarettes or go to designated smoking areas.”
Associate Vice President for Administration Janet Lindner said the possible smoking ban would require a cultural change on campus and individuals to take responsibility for respecting no-smoking policies.
Currently, if a smoking ban were to be implemented on the Yale campus, Lindner said, the Yale Police Department would most likely not be involved.
“We don’t plan to send out the ‘smoking police,’” Lindner said. “These types of policies (remember, it’s not a law) would be a public health effort, which I’m sure will come with public health education and positive efforts at smoking cessation.”
Examining how other universities have carried out smoke-free policies might shed light on how the Tobacco-Free Workgroup might proceed with its proposal, Genecin said.
Located in Ann Arbor, Mich., a city approximately the size of New Haven, the University of Michigan specifically addresses the issue of defining campus boundaries in an urban setting in their new smoke-free policy. To be implemented in July of this year, the ban prohibits smoking in all university facilities, buildings and grounds with the exception of sidewalks adjacent to public streets, Michigan spokesperson Rick Fitzgerald said.
Although the final details of Michigan’s smoking ban were approved Monday, the university announced the plan in April 2009 after a number of students complained about smokers congregating outside residential halls, Fitzgerald said.
To smooth the policy’s introduction to a campus of approximately 14 percent smokers, Fitzgerald said, the school relied on surveys, panels and discussions with students to make the policy more interactive.
“The university hosted a number of public forums to explain the process in developing implementations of the plan,” he said.
Michigan is also using educational programs to promote the policy and help students with smoking cessation.
At the University of Florida, peer pressure serves as the major enforcement mechanism, said spokesperson Steve Orlando, a member of the university’s tobacco-free board.
“The goal [of the ban] was to create an atmosphere in education that tobacco use on our campus was not acceptable,” he said.
With approximately 10 percent of the community identified as smokers, Orlando said the university has asked the campus to encourage individuals seen smoking on campus to quit and take advantage of the school’s smoking cessation programs. He added that students, faculty and staff are expected to self-enforce the ban, a strategy that has been reasonably successful thus far.
“Peer pressure can be a very effective tool,” he said.
The City University of New York released its plan to be a tobacco-free policy Monday, making it the latest and largest public university system to ban the use of tobacco, according to a press release.
Alon Harish, Everett Rosenfeld, Danny Serna and Traci Tillman contributed reporting.