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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Thursday, January 16, 2003

UH adopts tougher restrictions on smoking

By Beverly Creamer
Advertiser Education Writer

It's never been harder to find a place to smoke — or as easy to quit smoking — at the University of Hawai'i.

New and tougher "no tobacco" guidelines on all 10 UH campuses further restrict the areas where smoking is allowed, mandate smoke-free dorms within two years and ban the sale of tobacco products on campus and the sponsorship of campus events or organizations by tobacco companies.

But under the policy announced last week, students can receive free counseling, nicotine replacement therapy and referrals to off-campus clinic programs. A recent study showed that 10 to 13 percent of UH students smoke.

UH-Manoa counselor Michael Taleff, coordinator of the new Center for Substance Abuse on campus, is ready and waiting for the first students to come in for counseling and support services.

"If roommates are smoking there's often not a lot of good support, so what we're trying to do with this new policy is to hopefully create some student support groups around the campus," said Taleff. "So if someone is feeling, 'Gee, I really want a cigarette,' they'll have someone to talk to."

The policy was created by a university-wide coalition of faculty, staff and students called the UH Community Partnership for Health and Fresh Air and is in step with similar, more stringent policies being enacted on campuses across the country. It strengthens a 14-year-old policy that had prohibited smoking in common workplaces or areas where smoke could drift, all interior areas open to the public, elevators, classrooms, enclosed auditoriums, laboratories.

"This is the big wave on campuses around the country," said Taleff. "It's going to be difficult for a student smoker to find a campus where they allow it."

At Hawai'i Pacific University, there's also a tough policy that prohibits smoking on university premises, and requires smokers to be at least 10 feet from an entrance at the downtown Honolulu campus. And at the Hawai'i Loa campus, the front lanai, rear second-floor lanai and outdoor stairwells are smoke-free.

But certain smoking areas have been designated, including the rear ground-floor and third-floor lanai at the Hawai'i Loa campus. There are also designated smoking and nonsmoking areas at all HPU events.

Under the new UH policy, by the beginning of the 2003-04 academic year, 80 percent of UH dorms will be smoke-free. By the start of the 2004-05 academic year, all UH residences will be completely smoke-free. Smoking had been prohibited only in dormitory common areas such as lanai, lounges, interior courtyards, and front entrances of halls not designated substance-free.

Like anything else, there are some who see the tougher UH policy as a good move, others who think it won't make any difference.

Sophomore Kamu Aea likes the policy because he suffers from asthma, but Willy Kuoha, on the custodial staff, thinks it may be ignored.

"They're going to have problems because I don't think anyone's going to abide by those rules," said Kuoha. "We have to because we're employees, but the kids won't for sure." He thinks designated smoking areas with a few ashtrays provided might solve that type of dilemma for some.

"But if I wanted to quit," he added, stubbing out his own cigarette, "this would be a perfect time."

Even without much publicity yet, the policy's effects are beginning to be felt. All the coffee-can ashtrays were removed from Sakamaki Hall on Tuesday, and a clutch of staff and faculty and one retiree headed outside and away from the building's lanai to light up, grumbling as they went.

"It was strange to see them come out and smoke in the courtyard," said Kuoha. "We were saying, 'Who's that?'"

Another professor, who favors the policy, even chased a bunch of students away from an area near her office because their smoke was drifting in the window. "They moved more than 20 feet," said senior Kevin Morikone, one of the group.

"The whole trend is against smoking," added Morikone. "I think people will need to take notice."

Under the new policy, smoking is prohibited in:

  • All interior space owned, rented or leased by the university.
  • Building courtyards, breezeways and terraces, on exterior stairways and access ramps, and outdoor dining patios, terraces and lanai.
  • Within 20 feet of building entrances, exits, air intake ducts, vents and windows of buildings not air-conditioned.
  • Within 50 feet of designated pick-up and drop-off points for campus and public bus transportation.
  • Within the gates of the university's outdoor sports and performing arts stadiums and arenas, including walkways, corridors and seating areas.
  • Any area that has been designated by the person having control of the area as a nonsmoking area and marked with a no-smoking sign.

With the policy, the hope is to reduce second-hand smoke inhalation for everyone on campus.

"Cigarette smoking is the leading cause of preventable death in the U.S.," said UH President Evan Dobelle, "and kills more than 400,000 Americans every year. The consequences of second-hand smoke are equally — and perhaps even more — devastating, because they remove the element of individual choice from the equation."

Reach Beverly Creamer at bcreamer@honoluluadvertiser.com or 525-8013.