Up in Smoke
Smoking within the Loyola community has critics wanting a change
Published: Thursday, February 7, 2013
Updated: Friday, February 8, 2013 19:02
It’s hard to leave a building on campus without walking into a cloud of cigarette smoke. Whether members of the Loyola community choose to smoke or not, there seems to be almost no way to avoid inhaling tobacco smoke.
“If you want to smoke you are free to do so, as long as it doesn’t harm someone else. It is very difficult to smoke on campus given the number of community members we have, and our proximity to one another,” Vice President of Student Affairs Cissy Petty said in an email.
The consequences of smoking, however, go beyond the boundaries of Smoker’s Alley.
According to several surgeon general reports, there is no safe level of second-hand smoke, and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency classifies it as a “known human carcinogen,” or cancer-causing substance. This involuntary smoking can cause diseases such as lung cancer in healthy nonsmokers. Also according to the EPA, the simple separation of smokers and nonsmokers within the same air space may reduce but does not eliminate the exposure of nonsmokers to environmental tobacco smoke.
Criminal justice senior Yulia Gomez-Nieto, who has suffered from asthma since childhood, said that the constant smoking around campus affects her health on a near-daily basis.
“When I lived on campus I had to do daily therapies to calm my asthma because of the smoke around campus,” she said. “The smoke always makes me feel weak, disgusted and out of place. My nose gets irritated and in some instances it even starts to bleed,” she said, adding that her health got better as soon as she moved off campus.
According to smoker and English writing sophomore Gabrielle Gatto, the prevalence of smokers on campus hasn’t gone unnoticed by visitors, either. “I have some friends at Tulane who walk over here to smoke because they feel like it’s easier to get away with here than it is on their campus,” she said.
English writing sophomore Andrew Ketcham, who serves as a student ambassador, has noticed that the prevalence of smokers affects potential students and the public’s perception of Loyola in general.
While giving a campus tour last semester, Ketcham was leading a group of families past the benches in front of Biever to the University Sports Complex, where four to five students were smoking. “As I walked through, one of the students blew smoke into the tour group, which included some very young children. The families were upset and it was a hard situation to navigate. All I could think is that now these families assume that every student at Loyola is rude and that this kind of behavior is tolerated,” Ketcham said.
According to Petty, the smoking issue is pressing at Loyola because many students aren’t fully aware of which areas of campus are designated. The majority of the problem, however, comes from a lack of clear enforcement of the policy.
“Folks who smoke are supposed to be a certain distance from each building, including outside the residence halls. It is a policy, however, that is very difficult to enforce. Enforcement is based on being respectful of others,” Petty said.
But enforcement of these policies is not the Loyola University Police Department’s job, either.
“There are separate policies that govern smoking in buildings and residence halls, which are covered in Human Resource policies and residence hall policies,” said LUPD Captain Roger Pinac. The LUPD, however, is not “tasked with enforcing” these policies, he said.
Though the lack of a clear method of enforcement appears to have caused this issue, many smokers find that the city of New Orleans itself is more conducive to their smoking habits than others.
“I think I’d stand a better chance of not smoking if I wasn’t from the New Orleans area. It’s not as frowned upon here as it is in other places, at least in my opinion,” psychology and classical studies senior Jason Clay said, who admits to smoking a pack of cigarettes a day.
Like Clay, Gatto views the situation in a similar manner.
“Once I came to Loyola I smoked a lot more because there were more people that did it. In my hometown the only people who smoke are over 50 or really sleazy. But it’s so cultural in New Orleans,” Gatto said.
Whether the smoking issue is a Loyola problem or a New Orleans problem, the amount of smokers on campus hasn’t gone unnoticed by Petty and other university administrators. In fact, she said, the university is looking into transitioning Loyola into becoming a smoke-free campus.
“According to USA Today, more than half of all colleges and universities are considering smoke free campuses, and close to 835 have already instituted smoke free campuses,” Petty said. “Several Jesuit institutions — University of San Francisco, St. Louis University, John Carroll and Georgetown Medical Center — have all enacted Smoke Free Campus policies. Many others have policies similar to ours regarding designated spaces and distance from building requirements.”
If the university were to transition to a smoke-free campus, Petty said it would become LUPD’s duty to enforce the policy.
“What would really be great is if our mission to care for the whole person included being respectful of others, and smokers would abide by the smoking policy,” Petty said.