Many students are unaware of the new smoking policy at The University of Southern Mississippi. As of January, the campus has been completely tobacco-free. This new self-governing policy has left students scratching their head ever since. Smoking designated signs still adorn the walls around the school, such as the one behind the Liberal Arts Building.
The Moffet Health Center worked with members of both the Hattiesburg and Gulfport campuses to assist the promotion, awareness and implication of the new policy. The center was given a grant from the American Cancer Society that helped provide the promotional items and marketing material.
USM is holding multiple events to spread awareness, and they will be accepting feedback from those on campus. They will be holding two Tobacco-Free Campus Educational Sessions on Feb. 14 at 2 p.m. and 3:30 p.m. in the Thad Cochran Center room 210. There will be weekly tabling beginning Thursday, Feb. 1 and will continue at multiple locations through April.
As the policy is self-governing, the success or failure is on the students and faculty of the campus. For those who do not want to confront smoking students or faculty, the school provides pamphlets with the information on the new policy. These articles can be found inside the Moffet Health Center. There are no formal sanctions on the policy.
USM said in its official policy statement, “Concerns about tobacco use should be respectfully addressed in the moment whenever feasible faculty, staff, students, volunteers, contractors and visitors who observe individuals using tobacco on university property re-encouraged and empowered to respectfully explain that its use is prohibited by the University’s Tobacco-Free Policy.”
“As long as there’s ashtrays out here, and that (smoking area) sign is up, I’m going to smoke,” anonymous USM student said.
“I like the non-smoking policy,” another anonymous USM student said.
Because the policy is so new, many students do not actually know the technicalities of the policy. The new policy does not only prohibit the smoking of cigarettes, but it also bans the use of smokeless tobacco and vaping. According to the USM website, vaping is prohibited because vapes have no short-term or long-term studies on the effects. The website also mentions that the policy does not extend to vehicles, but still urges students to be considerate.
USM is not the first university to go smoke and/or tobacco free; many universities around Mississippi including, Mississippi State University, Delta State, Alcorn State and others.
As of a 2015 census from “The Truth Initiative,” 20 percent of young adults in Mississippi are smokers against a national average of 17 percent; 7 percent of young adults use smokeless tobacco and 6 percent vape.
“By endorsing a tobacco free policy, The University of Southern Mississippi joins the many colleges and universities nationwide in demonstrating its commitment to eliminating tobacco exposure, promoting healthy practices and choices for individuals,” USM statement said.
The campus is not forcing students, faculty and staff to quit smoking, they only ask for them to refrain from it while on campus.