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Should smoking be banned on the WSU Vancouver campus?

At the chancellor’s request, ASWSUV executives look for student input.

Whether students smoke or not, chances are they have an opinion about whether smoking should be allowed on the Washington State University Vancouver campus. Smoking has been banned on more than 770 college and university campuses across the United States — including Clark College and WSU Spokane. Should it be banned at WSU Vancouver as well?

The issue came up soon after WSU Vancouver’s Chancellor Netzhammer started in his new position this summer. He received an email from a WSU Vancouver student regarding second-hand smoke on campus.

The student wrote: “It is both frustrating and nauseating to enter or exit a building on the WSU Vancouver campus and be forced to hold your breath as you walk by smokers congregating around entrances and exits to buildings.”

When Netzhammer investigated the complaint, he found the issue had been discussed many times in the past, including last year when WSU Spokane banned smoking on its campus. However, the issue was never resolved.

Spurred by student interest, Netzhammer is making the issue a priority and has asked ASWSUV student government to collect student opinion on the subject.

“It is important that campus has this discussion and makes this decision,” Netzhammer said. “I understand that smoking is a personal choice, but I also think that institutions that are about education have a responsibility to encourage people to make healthy choices.”

Washington State law bans smoking within 25 feet of building entrances. However, some students fail to observe this law on campus.

“Nobody wants to be the smoke police. I get that,” Netzhammer said.

“A lot of complaints are about the corridor between the library and Undergraduate building,” said Daniel Nguyen, president of ASWSUV and a senior majoring in psychology and biology.

In addition to second-hand smoke, non-smokers complain of overflowing ashtrays and cigarette butts littering the ground between the library and Multimedia Classroom building.
Nguyen is calling upon ASWSUV staff and senators to help survey student opinion on the subject.

“We all have our own opinions about smoking, but it is more important to keep in mind that [student government] is here to represent the entire student body,” Nguyen said. “This as an opportunity to connect with students and hear what they have to say on this issue.”

Nguyen said he and Aaron Bruckner, ASWSUV vice president and a senior majoring in computere science, will move deliberately to ensure they collect opinions that represent all student demographics. The methods they will use may include an online survey, focus groups, an open forum or even a campus-wide vote, said Nguyen.

“We will first want to find out if students even think there is an issue. From there, we may look at whether there should be a ban, how restrictive it should be and whether we should have designated smoking areas on campus,” Nguyen said.

Nguyen hopes to finish gathering data prior to Spring Break so a decision can be made before the end of this academic year.

If smoking is banned, the question of where people would go to smoke will be part of the discussion. Netzhammer admits there is no easy answer.

“Some campuses only allow one location — usually not the easiest location. Some campuses don’t concern themselves with where people have to go — you just can’t do it on campus,” Netzhammer said.

Netzhammer and Nguyen mentioned options including covered areas located around campus, designated areas near parking lots or the possibility of a total smoking ban on all campus grounds.

“[If WSU Vancouver becomes a non-smoking campus] I would like to see designated smoking areas that are convenient and accessible. It is not illegal to smoke. I do think [smoking areas] should be on campus, not at the bottom of the hill,” Nguyen said.

Regardless of the outcome, Netzhammer and Nguyen welcome a vigorous discussion.

“This is one of the first things we are doing in collaboration with our students,” said Netzhammer. “For the time our students are here, they are critically important pieces of our community. It’s important to me that we engage them in discussions around things that will impact them.”

“We are all students seeking the same things — success and an education. We are one student body with many voices,” Nguyen said.

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