posted 2011-03-09 13:00:00

CUNY to Ban Smoking

CUNY to Ban Smoking

New policy sparks mix of outrage, support and ambivalence

John Bolger

Staff Writer

Attention Hunter smokers: on Jan. 24 the CUNY Board of Trustees made the controversial decision to ban smoking anywhere on CUNY property — including outdoor terraces, in courtyards and on balconies. Individual CUNY campuses have until Sept. 4, 2012 to adopt the policy.

The new smoking policy was drafted by CUNY's Tobacco Policy Advisory Committee, which was formed at the request of CUNY Chancellor Matthew Goldstein, to revise the 1994 policy, which banned the use of tobacco indoors at CUNY facilities. The revised policy also requires that schools develop an implementation plan and submit it for approval by June 30. In addition to banning smoking on campus, schools will be required to provide their students and staff with free “tobacco cessation services.”

This revised policy is to be implemented under the direction of Dr. Luis Manzo, University Director of Mental Health and Wellness Services of CUNY.  According to Manzo, “at this time there is no monetary support to implement the revised tobacco policy. However, CUNY will be assisting campuses with obtaining the resources to effectively implement the tobacco policy.”

According to Manzo, the CUNY Central Office will be assisting the campuses in training its staff to administer the cessation services. Additionally, CUNY, in collaboration with the NYC Department of Health and Mental Hygiene-Bureau of Tobacco Control, will arrange for campuses to receive nicotine replacement patches and gum as well as educational materials, such as brochures and signs.

Students at Hunter have had varied responses to the upcoming ban.  In a poll conducted for this report, of 100 students around campus, 37 said they were in favor of the ban, 41 said they were opposed, and 22 said they were ambivalent. The highest concentration of supporters was found in the student cafeteria, whereas opponents were found mostly in the third floor hallways.  Both supporters and opponents alike said they were skeptical of Hunter’s ability to enforce the ban successfully, and many smokers admitted that they had no intention of abiding by the revised policy.

Natasha Talutis, 19, studying English and political science, is a transfer student from Queens Borough Community College (QCC) — a campus which has already adopted an outdoor smoking ban ahead of CUNY.  She was opposed to the ban, citing concerns that it is not only unnecessary, but also unenforceable.  The QCC ban, she said, was a failure in that it was not enforced actively by the staff and did little to reduce the amount of smoke on campus.

“Maybe if a security guard is having a bad day, he'll tell you to move,” she said, “but it usually never happens.”

Jenni Carosonecieselshi, 22, majoring in sociology, was adamantly opposed to the policy, calling the ban misguided and questioning the true motives behind it.

“We're on a busy street, we're right outside a subway, I think it's a little ridiculous,” she said while smoking a cigarette outside the West Building.  “It's not going to make anyone quit, it's just going to create a nuisance.”

When asked how the policy would affect her smoking habits, Carosonecieselshi said, “unless someone actually tells me to move, I'm probably going to smoke right here, I mean seriously, is that what you're going to spend your money on, taking away kids' cigarettes?”

Other students, like Alexsandra Villafore, 19, a non-smoker, feel that the ban is necessary.  She said that because of the smokers outside of the Hunter West lobby, she resorted to using the underground 6 train entrance exclusively.  She also expressed the concern that the ban would not be enforced properly.

“Maybe if there's somebody out there to watch us, the ban will work.  But if not, people will still smoke,” she said.  “If they actually enforce this, I'll consider using the aboveground entrance.”

Mark Rukham, a 19-year-old double major in psychology and biology, was one of the few lunchroom non-smokers who wasn't overwhelmingly in favor of the ban.  Rukham said that he agreed that smoking needed to be banned indoors, but that smoking outside should not be regulated.

“It is annoying when you get smoke in your face, but you can't tell people not to smoke just because it bothers you,” he said.

Whether or not Hunter adopts a QCC-style enforcement strategy will be seen when CUNY's revised tobacco policy takes effect next year.  As for the smokers — for the time being they smoke around campus lackadaisically; some curse the administration, others curse the non-smokers, and very few believe that anyone or any policy will get in the way of what one student called “a person's right to do as they please with their own bodies, even if it's not healthy for them.”