Legislative Update [July 16, 2010 Edition]

[NOTE: A version of this post runs in this week’s print edition of the UP. If you’ve read that, you’ve read this. For new print readers coming over here, click the official numbering of the bill below to see a scanned copy of the legislation for yourself.]

No action was taken on the free speech resolution because the student court is currently addressing it, but there was one new item this week which was sent to committees after some debate.

Student Government wants your opinion on something the university may have already decided.

In a new bill put forth last Friday — ironically called “Let the Student’s Decide” [sic] — Boca Governor Allison Gentry proposes polling students in the fall SG election on “whether or not they support Florida Atlantic University becoming a smoke free university as of July 1, 2011.”

The purpose statement attached to the back of the bill, however, makes this “proposal” sound finalized already:

To promote the health and well-being of our students, visitors, and employees, all Florida Atlantic University facilities will be tobacco-free starting July 1, 2011. Visitors, students, and employees will no longer be able to smoke or use tobacco products on any Florida Atlantic University campus.

To be clear, the ban itself is a university initiative, not Gentry’s. But it makes your opinion seem kind of redundant, doesn’t it? Especially if you voted against this the first time…

Smoke and mirrors

If you feel like you’ve been asked about this same exact thing before, you have. The bill cites a student poll from over a year ago, taken during the Spring 2009 SG election. While the bill gives you percentages from that, though, it doesn’t offer the hard numbers from the two questions:

I support limiting smokers to using designated smoking areas at FAU — 1376 votes
I do not support limiting smokers to using designated smoking areas — 428 votes

I support a smoke-free university — 1172 votes
I do not support a smoke-free university —634 votes

The former policy, dubbed the “Breathe Easy” campaign, went into effect in January. It obviously had more support than the latter — the students who voted supported it 3 to 1, while a complete ban of smoking was only supported 2 to 1. Still, FAU is eager to keep pace with “similar [ban] policy being enforced at eight colleges and universities throughout Florida,” according to the purpose statement.

But those numbers only reflect the opinions of roughly seven percent of the student body, and some House Representatives took issue with that during the debate last Friday.

A truth campaign?

Last Friday’s meeting presented an uncommon diversity of viewpoints on the issue: for, against, problems, suggestions.

Representative Peter Amirato was the first to speak out against a ban backed by a low-turnout poll: “I don’t really like this, to tell you the truth.”

He gave two reasons — one, addicts following the rules would have to trade parking for smoking. “So many people would avoid coming to FAU just because they’re addicted to smoking,” said Amirato. “You’d have to drive 10 minutes to get a smoke and then try to find a parking spot again.”

Amirato, a non-smoker, said the designated areas for smoking are fine, but the ban is “extreme” — like the people who he says would vote for it: “Not many people vote in this [SG elections] and the people who will vote are extremists who want to ban smoking.” He suggested that a large marketing campaign would be necessary to validate the poll’s results.

Gov. Gentry’s response was true, though it’s not clear whether or not it helps her case: “Are you aware that more students voted in this poll than people voted to elect any of us to our offices?”

Representative Guilherme Massetti agreed with Amirato, and added that, “As long as smoking is legal in this country, we should be able to have it at this university.”

Guy Murphy, a representative who co-sponsored the bill, said the ban might actually fix the turnout problem — after the fact:

“Voter participation is something everybody has complained about,” said Murphy. “People won’t learn until they have something taken away or until they get pissed off. People might become involved just because this passes.”

Kevin Stantz asked about enforcement. “How would we enforce a smoke-free campus if we cannot enforce the breathe-easy zones we have now?”

The policy statement attached to the bill does address that problem, which the UP has covered before, here, here and here. Starting in January 2012, anyone caught smoking more than once would be entered into an FAU database and fined $10 each time.

Dean Hasan thought “this whole bill or resolution is just to follow other schools.”

Representative Boris Bastidas and House Speaker Josh Pollock both agreed that the current policy has made things worse by condensing smoke into designated clusters, but they differed on what to do about it.

“These designated smoking areas have concentrated the smoking in certain areas that are heavily traveled,” said Pollock. “But is it really helping keep second-hand smoke away from non-smokers? Before these breathe-easy zones I didn’t notice it, but now I do.”

Bastidas said he’d like “going back to the way it was,” while bill co-sponsor Pollock argued for the ban, saying, “You can’t subject other people to an unhealthy lifestyle.”

Student Body President Ayden Maher didn’t comment on the issue during the meeting, but told the UP his views while campaigning for office in the spring semester:I do not support the smoking ban on campus,” but, “I don’t support smoking. I’m not a smoker.”

Got a light?

Here’s a few additional resources for you guys. FAU periodically offers a free, six-week quitting program which you can learn more about here.

If you’d like to voice your opinion to Boca Gov. Allison Gentry, you can e-mail her at fau.bocagov@fau.edu. If you want to go over SG, the FAU administrative contact for the smoking program would be Wellness Director Rosemary Dunbar, who you can reach at rdunbar@fau.edu.

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2 Responses to “Legislative Update [July 16, 2010 Edition]”

  1. My understanding of this bill was that the proposed policy attached to it would be implemented by July 2011 only if students vote in favor of a smoke-free campus on the upcoming university-wide poll. I didn’t know that it’d be implemented regardless of the outcome…?

    Thanks for the clarification, Brandon.

    Guil Massetti

  2. Brandon Says:

    Guil,

    I’m not sure if it will be implemented without doubt, but I don’t see anything in the legislation that bases implementation on the outcome of this poll. I’d love to see what happens if there was overwhelming opposition in the results, though…

    Cheers,
    Brandon.

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