The smoking referendum at USM results in the student body voting in favor of going to a smoke-free campus by 2016.
The USM student body has had limited smoking to specific zones on campus. Two SGA senators campaigned to change the policy after research and conducting interviews. During the 2014 fall semester, those same senators drafted a piece of legislation and passed it through the SGA Senate.
A clause was added to the legislation requiring it to go to a referendum vote for the student body during the general elections. The Staff Council and Faculty Senate also received the legislation for their opinions.
During the SGA general elections on March 3, 76 percent of 1,500 students voted in favor of making the campus smoke free by 2016.
SGA Vice President Kyle Stoner said, “It is our hope that a plan will be drafted and set in motion to prepare The University of Southern Mississippi to begin taking steps to become smoke free by the fall of 2016.”
The next step for legislation will be to compile and present a summary of student, faculty and staff data, and present it to the president’s Executive Cabinet for consideration and approval.
Many students found this to be a good change for the university. Courtney Barlow, a biological sciences major at USM, said, “I think I agree with the referendum for no smoking for the simple fact that many of the smokers on campus don’t respect the no smoking zones.”
Barlow shared her experiences with smokers violating the no smoking zone rules currently on campus. “I would understand allowing the smoking areas to remain if all of the smokers respected those areas,” Barlow said I’ve encountered multiple people smoking in areas clearly labeled ‘no smoking.”
Barlow understood how people could oppose the ruling. She said, “For a lot of people, it’s a social thing. I could see how people could oppose that. It’s their right to choose to smoke.”
Scott Baron, a business major at USM, agreed with the referendum as well. Baron said, “I’ve just always been against it. I just know about the causes of second hand smoke and been around it a lot. I just know the health issues that could take place with it.”
When asked about why people would be against it, Baron said, “I guess people who smoke just want to keep doing it and always done it.”
Some smokers did not take the news of the referendum all too well. Chantry Wilson, an ITech worker in the library, smokes regularly during his breaks.
Wilson said, “I think it’s definitely unnecessary. Students can’t pay the tickets. You’re hurting the student population when they’re studying and want to run out to grab a quick cigarette to remain fueled up.”
Wilson himself has gotten a ticket before for smoking in front of the library. He said, “I’m an ardent supporter of the smoke zones, but it was pouring down rain. I stepped out for a quick cigarette along with everyone else.”
At that moment a University Police officer walked up and gave Wilson a ticket. He was the only one out of several people to receive a ticket.
Another smoker named Drew Leggett is a student at USM. He says, “I just feel like if you have a community of people that are smokers and non-smokers, making the campus smoke free doesn’t account for everybody in the population,” Leggett said.
But even more than that, how (will they) enforce it. They’re going to make it the cops’ jobs to stop and give every person with a cigarette a ticket?
If the goal is not to expose non-smokers they’d be better off working toward making designated areas that are actually appealing to smoke at instead of just setting a cigarette waste receptacle basically out of the way and next to a dumpster like they have now.