Editorial: No-smoking policy on campus is hazy


Walk around campus at dusk and, chances are, someone will either be smoking or cigarette butts are lying around where someone finished smoking. But isn’t Baylor a tobacco-free, smoke-free campus?

In August 2014, the university enacted a policy that banned all forms of tobacco use on campus. This ban includes cigarettes, cigars, e-cigarettes, hookahs and all other tobacco products.

The ordinance is considered legitimate on all properties owned, leased, operated or occupied or controlled by Baylor. This includes all facilities at the main campus and Waco extensions, all stadiums, Baylor’s Louise Herrington School of Nursing in Dallas, sidewalks, internal roadways, parking structures and university housing.

The university states that it is not requiring students or staff to stop smoking completely, but it is encouraging that smokers explore nonsmoking as an option. At the same time, the policy does not definitively list what will happen if someone is caught smoking on Baylor property.

Instead, the university states it expects students and staff to voluntarily comply with the new policy. But to enact a policy without clarifying penalties is dangerous and undermines the university’s authority. If police and governments did not enforce laws, would people still respect them? More than likely not.

In addition, “funding [became] available to the university by the Cancer Research Institute of Texas” to accelerate the tobacco-free, smoke-free policy, according to Baylor’s dedicated webpage. With only minimal signage, a few webpages and no clear course of punishment, it seems that the university is merely posting a faux paux policy to receive grant money.

Baylor’s webpage for the policy even states that “enforcement is not [the university’s] first priority.” So if enforcement isn’t, then what is? Money?

Or could it be for the university’s image?

By enacting anti-tobacco policies, Baylor may seem more progressive and modern than schools who have not. Our generation has been coached that tobacco is a negative image, thanks to Nancy Reagan’s “Just Say No” program and that commercial where the girl peels off her face.

Only if deemed necessary will action be taken against violators. But who determines when action is necessary? And to what extend can the administration punish detractors? Nowhere is this listed.

The tobacco-free, smoke-free policy is merely a policy of expectations. Baylor expects students and staff to follow its anti-tobacco guidelines.

And while Baylor does not require that students, staff and visitors quit smoking outright, it does expect them to self-enforce the new rules. However, when self-enforcement is not followed, the university expects bystanders to intercede.

One such suggested approach to calling someone out for tobacco use reads verbatim on the policy’s FAQ page: “Hello. I want to make you aware that we are now a tobacco-free, smoke-free campus. Tobacco products and smoking are prohibited on our grounds.”

The university should consider that few students want to appear as snitches, and so will rarely follow as this script directs.

Baylor is not the first to enact a tobacco-free, smoke-free policy on its campus. There are more than 600 colleges and universities, both public and private, that disallow tobacco use on campus. The University of Texas implemented such a rule in 2012, making it the first school in the Big 12 to do so. Many of these colleges and universities employ the same vague tones about enforcing – or not necessarily enforcing – their respective policies.

However, even though other universities have smoke-free policies, Baylor should not follow suit merely for funding or image.

And if the university enacts any policy, to ensure full legitimacy and respect, it should also outline proper courses of penalization.