A tobacco-free tomorrow dawns on campus

Hamline’s campus-wide tobacco-free policy went into effect beginning June 1.


Kelly Holm, Senior Reporter

Ever since Hamline’s new tobacco-free policy was unveiled in October of 2017, it has been the center of much debate and controversy. The policy first went into effect on June 1, 2018, but now, as classes resume for the fall semester, the Hamline student body will, for the first time, see the new rule’s consequences.

“There was a task force that was convened in 2013 that kind of studied the issue,” said Hussein Rajput, Director of Counseling & Health Services. “Their recommendations initially were to just… enforce the St. Paul city ordinance, which [bans tobacco use within] 25 feet from a building, and to have more designated smoking areas. Most of those recommendations weren’t actually implemented… When President Miller came in, she was receptive to taking a different approach.”

As it currently stands, the policy prohibits all tobacco usage within the limits of Hamline’s campus, whether in the form of smoking, vaping or chewing.

“Tobacco users… who aren’t interested in cessation… have the option to [use] any of the public sidewalks on the perimeter of campus, [they are] public spaces, so Hamline doesn’t regulate those,” Rajput said. “Essentially, the map that’s on the Tobacco-Free Campus website delineates where those boundaries are.”

Feedback to the policy so far has been a mix of both positive and negative.

“Interestingly, in some cases, even some people who are current or former tobacco users have been supportive, which has been a little bit of a surprise to me,” Rajput said. “Definitely there have been some individuals who have been frustrated and, you know, opposed to the decision, for sure.”

Senior Bashir Imady was one of the students who was in favor of the ban.

“I think that [the tobacco-free policy] is a nice message and shows where the world is heading in terms of even harsher positions against tobacco. My only hope is that the same approach is taken against other harmful materials,” Imady said.

Others though, like sophomore Sophia Grindland were more hesitant about the new tobacco ban.

“You’re already not allowed to smoke in… any of the dorm rooms, so I was wondering why they’d ban it completely from campus… I guess that seems a little far for me,” Grindland said.

Rajput explained the main rationale for the creation of the ban.

“There’s abundant evidence that tobacco products are not good for the health of people using them and also, there’s a lot of scientific evidence for the harmful effects of secondhand smoke,” Rajput said.

Results taken from Hamline’s most recent student tobacco use survey, which was taken earlier in 2018, showed that  a quarter of self-identified tobacco users on campus reported that they had acquired the habit since coming to Hamline.

Rajput called the survey results “a compelling reason to have a policy like this… Policies like these discourage people from starting in the first place, and they encourage light users to quit the habit.”

Since the ban began, Hamline Public Safety has been notifying students of the policy. Rajput stated his belief that as knowledge of the ban grows in the Hamline community, the majority of tobacco users will abide by it.

“If there are people who are repeatedly, intentionally violating the policy, then if they’re employees they will be looking at going through a human resources process, or for students they’d be looking at going through a conduct process, but right now we’re just trying to educate people.”

Sophomore Spencer Larson thought that the consequences of violating the ban should not be so harsh for first offenders.

“[There should be] a warning, perhaps, the first time… but if the person is seen [violating the ban] multiple times, then perhaps there should be some disciplinary action,” Larson said.

If students or staff need any further information about the policy, they can visit the Smoke and Tobacco-Free Campus Policy section of the Hamline website.