By: Claire Jordan | Photography: Rachel Nipp
Most college students have an inner Don Draper or Audrey Hepburn longing to strut around with cigarette in hand and clever comment at the ready. Unfortunately, this pipe dream has been compromised.
On October 1, 2014, our beloved campus was declared tobacco-free. According to the State Board of Regents, “The use of all forms of tobacco products on property owned, leased, rented, in the possession of, or in any way used by the University System of Georgia or its affiliates is expressly prohibited,” which initially raised some concerns. Some students felt that the culture of UGA was being threatened. “I think people should be able to choose what they want to do regardless of personal health value,” says Mariam Turner, a freshman communication sciences and disorders major from Canton. “I think [smoking] should be limited to certain areas to reduce second-hand smoke, but I don’t think we should eliminate it from the campus altogether. It feels too controlling.”
However, several months later, not much seems to have changed. Sure, there aren’t circles of students lighting up right outside the MLC, but smokers are still spotted around campus. In fact, most student smokers have adapted quite well. No one has organized some feverish demonstration outside the Tate Center. Nothing remarkably defiant has appeared on social media. “This regulation seems like a good idea to me,” says Ishani Podder, a freshman management information systems and international business major from Norcross. This passivity is most likely due to the fact that UGA is a little late to the tobacco-free party. Colleges like Piedmont College and Athens Technical College surrendered their tobacco rights almost a decade ago. So while the Ron Swansons of this world may go red in the face at the first mention of government involvement, change was inevitable here.
From the beginning, this law was never meant to be a way for the police to come crackin’ down on tobacco use, but rather a movement toward a healthier environment–hence the saying “Let’s Clear the Air” stretching across hundreds of posters around campus.
Several students fully support this initiative. “I think the law is a good idea,” says Indigo Velazquez, a junior finance major from Macon. “It promotes both physical and environmental health. This regulation will make the air cleaner and safer.”
The Board of Regents defines administration of the law as “a shared community responsibility.” Therefore, enforcement has not been particularly jarring. “Honestly, the law has not affected me whatsoever,” says Zach Fossier, a sophomore mass media arts major from Woodstock. “I’ve smoked on campus pretty consistently since the law was put in place and nobody has said anything to me.” While it seems as though individual smokers will continue to puff in peace, the law has successfully disbanded the masses, significantly improving the air quality for all students and fulfilling its purpose.
For more information about the tobacco-free policy on campus, please visit the University System of Georgia’s website at www.usg.edu/tobaccofree/.