In the past few weeks, the SGA Senate has been carefully considering and debating a potentially tobacco-free campus initiative.
The initiative was introduced in the Senate meeting Sept. 4, when Sen. Douglas LeBlanc and Sen. Kristen Dupard brought forth the idea to expand the current smoke-free initiative to cover all tobacco products, such as chewing tobacco and snuff.
Southern Miss is working toward being a smoke-free campus, which began in the past few years with strict policies for smoking zones.
The policy as it stands, according to Student Health Services, said that “smoking of tobacco products on The University of Southern Mississippi’s campus is limited to designated smoking areas.” This policy includes the electronic cigarettes or “vapes,” which have recently grown in popularity. This policy is set in place to soon become entirely smoke-free by 2016.
The idea was hotly debated in the next few meetings, with many senators being hesitant about the plausibility of enforcement.
Sen. Matthew Dubuisson remained mostly silent in the debate, but he persisted in disagreement with the policy. “If I’m chewing gum while walking down the sidewalk, what’s UPD going to do? Make me open my mouth and check for snuff?” he said.
LeBlanc remained adamant about updating UPD’s handling of the tickets for smoking violations. He said UPD is supportive of the potential initiative and is willing to change the severity or nature of the citations.
“Current policy is (to) charge to (a student’s) account. If they need to up the fine, then they are behind whatever the administration decides to do,” he said.
LeBlanc said the Department of Residence Life is fully in support of the project and other sectors have offered monetary backing for the necessities of carrying out the initiative.
“There are funds within College of Health and Department of Sustainability they offered to use to make this initiative possible,” he said.
He also said the importance of research and polling to truly assure that this proposal would please the majority of the student population.
“One thing that we’re to do is get facts and research. We’re going to do polls, we’re going to do surveys, we’re (going to) put it in USM Mailout,” LeBlanc said. “Within the next week or two, you should expect tabling in the Union.”
This proposal has not been written into legislation and continues to be debated formally and informally in the Senate. In order for the idea to become a policy, the idea must be written into legislation, passed by the SGA Senate and signed by administration.
If the proposal is written and passed, it would not take immediate effect but join the residual smoking policy to slowly reduce tobacco use on campus.
“We want to wean off the tobacco use on campus until we can be completely tobacco-free,” LeBlanc said. “We want to usher in a new habit-forming initiative for these new (students).”