OUPD still working to raise awareness about tobacco-free policy
Chunchun Zhu, The Oklahoma Daily
After two weeks as a smoke-free campus, OUPD has given zero citations and a handful of verbal warnings, a police spokesman said.
Since the tobacco ban went into effect July 1, officers have seen people smoking on campus but are only reminding violators about the new ban, OUPD Lt. Bruce Chan said.
“We’ve made a few contacts but have not issued any citations,” Chan said. “This is a new thing, so we’re going to take each case as they come up.”
Chan said he hopes voluntary compliance and the university's efforts to publicize the ban will be more prevalent than citations to enforce the tobacco-free policy.
During the spring semester, OU began using email notifications, outdoor signs, newspaper advertisements, posters and on-campus advertising to try to raise awareness of the policy, university spokesman Michael Nash said. Nearly 60 signs have been posted across campus to remind everyone that the university is now smoke-free, he said.
People also may be alerted to the policy change once they notice there are no longer any cigarette disposals. Officials are in the process of removing about 300 cigarette disposal receptacles, Nash said.
No documents exist yet concerning what it will cost the university to remove the disposals and post more tobacco-ban notices, said Rachel McCombs, director of OU's Open Records Office.
OU groundskeeper Norma Christian said the university needs to post bigger signs so people can’t claim they didn’t see a sign and pretend not to know the ban is in place.
Confusion over policy rules also may account for some violations. Christian said she came across two people smoking in their cars, and both told her they thought they were allowed to smoke in their vehicles.
“That doesn’t matter — as long as you’re on OU property you can’t smoke,” she said she told them.
After the cigarette disposals are removed, groundskeepers will still be required to clean up cigarette litter, Christian said.
Brett Burkland, undergraduate academic adviser for the English department, said he wonders how much time groundskeepers actually spend cleaning up cigarette litter.
“People smoke all the time out there — or used to — and I never noticed a huge mess or anything," Burkland said.
Burkland said he has mixed feelings about the tobacco ban.
“On the one hand, it seems to create a cleaner campus, but on the other hand, it seems maybe to be seriously denying people some freedoms,” he said. “It must be very difficult for people who smoke, [like] employees because they're stuck at work. I don't know where they would go."
UOSA President Joe Sangirardi said UOSA passed a smoking ban initiative three years ago.
“There was broad student support behind the ban, and the administration began to realize that people weren’t staying 25 feet from the doors,” Sangirardi said.
The university has no records of citations given to those smoking within 25 feet of a door, and Chan said he can’t recall any time when OUPD wrote a citation for violators of this rule.
"I don’t think it’s been a very big issue,” he said. “I'm not aware of it being a big issue.”