Smokers at Towson University are bound to find this semester more stressful than ever.
When the fall semester begins at Towson this morning, the university will be greeting an historic class: the first class to give up smoking cigarettes, down to a student. At least, they will be giving up cigarettes on campus.
Last fall, Towson made history in the region by going smoke free. Students, faculty and staff who want to light up must travel to the edge of campus for a break. Towson is among a number of schools to implement a campuswide smoking ban. Most are not four-year universities like Towson's but community colleges and medical schools. The University of Florida is another example of a prominent institution pledging to go smoke free.
An administrator who worked to evaluate how the smoke-free policy would affect life on campus said that Towson University President Robert Caret assembled a commission to evaluate the smoke-free question three years ago. (The administrator, who was on the task force, does not have authority to speak on behalf of Towson.)
The committee first considered the wisdom of banning tobacco. Some students (and faculty, and staff) would throw a nicotine fit. But in working with a number of organizations -- the student government, residence halls, student senate, Council of Student Leaders, and staff council -- the Towson commission found the response overwhelmingly positive. No student, faculty or staff group emerged to formally oppose the proposed smoking ban last fall.
Administrators' primary fears with the smoking ban are not the irritable students and colleagues. Rather, the administrator said, it was safety. Where can students smoke? Do they have to cross a busy street -- like Maryland Route 45, which serves as Towson's eastern boundary -- to smoke? (They don't. They only have to approach it.) In walking the perimeter of the campus, the commission found sufficient lighting and blue-light emergency phones, said the administrator.
The smoke-free campus has yet to catch fire in the mid-Atlantic region. Back in April, the University of Maryland's Senate Executive Committee nixed a campuswide smoking ban, endorsing instead a plan to strengthen enforcement for existing smoking rules. An unofficial George Washington University student organization formed last year to press for a smoking ban. At least one other nearby school is mulling the ban, though. West Virginia University --whose President, James Clements, served as Provost at Towson when Towson passed its smoking ban -- is mulling a smoking ban as well.
So far, Towson students, staff and even contractors are all complying, the Towson administrator said. That may change when violators are faced with fines and sanctions -- or the prospect of clearing across campus to grab a smoke between classes.