Students in Support of a Tobacco-Free Campus
Kyle Florence

After a recent student referendum initiated by Student Government Association, the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point student body has voted for a tobacco-free campus.

“The vote has come in and it appears that the number one vote is for the campus to go tobacco free,” said Assistant Director for Building Services Mike Zsido.

Zsido explained that as a majority of the student body has voted for the campus to move in a tobacco-free direction, it is now up to Chancellor Bernie Patterson to come to a final decision.

“If the chancellor decided for the campus to go tobacco free, and ultimately it is his decision, the campus and all campus grounds would be tobacco free,” Zsido said. “Any chewing tobacco and any smoking products would not be allowed on campus.”

According to Jeff Karcher, Director of Safety & Loss Control, this referendum will hopefully serve as a launch pad to create a healthy atmosphere across the UWSP campus.

“We’re trying to foster a culture of wellness on campus. We don’t want to make this into a big rule issue with two sides. We hope that eventually it becomes mutually understood by both parties that there simply isn’t any smoking allowed on campus,” Karcher said.

Zsido expressed a similar outlook.

“We are a wellness campus and we should be using a wellness model,” Zsido said. “People’s ability to breathe free air is hindered when people are smoking at entrances to buildings or certain places where people have to walk through the smoke. Everyone has the right to breathe free air, and hopefully this will take care of that issue on campus.”

Given the results of this referendum, it is not surprising that many students are pleased with the likely possibility of a tobacco-free campus.

“People who don’t smoke shouldn’t have to inhale secondhand smoke,” said Amanda Esser, a senior elementary education major. “There’s plenty of places off-campus they could go to smoke--and now they may even be more motivated to stop smoking.”

Conversely, there are those who are skeptical. Scott Halperin, who is also a senior and a regular smoker, is one such individual.

“I can understand why people would want to do it with the secondhand smoke and all those things, but I think it’s a smokers right to smoke on sidewalks and public property,” Halperin said. “I don’t really know how they’re going to stop every smoker from smoking.”

Karcher maintains however that this not UWSP’s ultimate goal, and that this referendum will not serve as a means to police students and faculty members personal habits.

“A lot of people don’t realize that there are some people out there who are effected by even a very small amount of smoke. There is a population out there, who have respiratory issues for example, where even a slight exposure to smoke can have very negative effects--we’re concerned for those individuals,” Karcher said. “We’re not trying to regulate everyone’s individual life decisions, but we do feel it is reasonable and prudent for the campus to move in a smoke-free direction.”