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Puff Puff Policy: Students Smoking on a Smoke-Free Campus

By Liz Calvo

Barry University has been a smoke-free campus since July 2016, which means that no one can smoke on the premises. This policy was implemented to promote a safe campus environment in allegiance with the Tobacco Free Florida campaign.

Photo Credit to KNKX

Some students break this policy, however, and continue to smoke and store substances that are prohibited on campus, such as marijuana, vape pens, and e-cigarettes, in their dorms. These substances affect students who are non-smokers or those who follow the policy, as those students must deal with the smell and effects of secondhand smoke.

Often, the scent of marijuana permeates the dorm hallways. Smoke escapes when doors or windows are open and can also travel through ventilation systems. Although some students do not care about the smell, others take issue with it.

“Having to smell the smoke coming into the dorm is annoying because the smell is not at all pleasant,” said an anonymous, non-smoking student.

This student adds that there is no way to prevent the smell because students will not stop smoking.

However, an anonymous student who smokes in his dorm said that he does care if his neighbors are bothered by the smell. To combat this, he takes “certain precautions to keep the smell from traveling.”

According to Modern Castle, an expert home product review team, some common precautions students may take to prevent smoke from leaking out is to close the air vents, place a wet towel at the bottom of the door, or use an air purifier.

Photo Credit to American Nonsmokers' Rights Foundation

Despite the poor smell, another problem that comes from policy breakers is secondhand smoke. According to the American Lung Association, “secondhand smoke causes approximately 7,330 deaths from lung cancer and 33,950 deaths from heart disease each year.”

Thus, students who are non-smokers are still put at risk because of the people in their dorms that smoke. This is worrisome for many.

“I would rather my neighbors find a different place to smoke if it means my health is at risk,” said the non-smoking student.

Due to the smoke-free campus policy being violated, Assistant Dean of Students Matthew Cameron, notes that there is a “detailed reporting and review policy for conduct violations, including smoking illegal substances on campus.”

If a student is found guilty of violating the code of conduct, sanctions can include “a written or verbal warning, university or housing probation, housing termination, university suspension or dismissal, fines, community service,” and many others.

Photo Credit to The Megaphone - Southwestern University

However, Cameron notes that implementing these sanctions isn’t always an easy decision.

"One increasing challenge we face as it relates to marijuana prevention efforts on campus is that even though it remains illegal federally, several states in the U.S. have legalized or decriminalized marijuana use, as well as several countries we welcome our students from,” said Cameron.

He adds that some students come to Barry with a medicinal marijuana authorization notice. The use of medical marijuana was legalized in Florida in 2014 under the Compassionate Medical Cannabis Act. To accommodate different perspectives on the use of marijuana on campus, Cameron encourages student input.

“We always welcome dialogue with our students regarding suggestions to make these measures even more effective,” he said.

One student’s input is that allowing students to smoke on campus is the best thing to do.

"If Barry would let people smoke on campus, outside the dorms, then it would keep residents away from smoking inside the dorms,” said the student.

Policy changes are not too uncommon on Barry’s campus, as the university began allowing alcohol on campus under the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) of 1974, after 35 years of being a dry campus.

Photo Credit to The Buffalo State Record

The student who smokes understands this change because “alcohol doesn’t smell or cause secondhand effects, unlike [marijuana] or tobacco.”

Similarly, the non-smoking student believes that the current smoking and drinking policies are the fairest for Barry to have.

“...Smoking can bring more harm to a person’s health and, as mentioned, it can have an unpleasant smell,” said the student.

Although resident students have mixed views about smoking on campus, it is unclear whether Barry plans to make a change to the no-smoking policy. Students should be sure they understand the policies in the student handbook before smoking or drinking alcoholic substances in their dorms.