Every building students and visitors encounter on the UCF main campus has a sign that says "UCF is Proud to be a Smoke-Free Campus."
Some students believe UCF's smoke-free policy is punitive, but it's not. The policy is non-punitive, which means there is no reporting system in place if someone is found in violation.
According to the policy, "Effective implementation of this policy depends on the courtesy and cooperation of all the members of the UCF community, not only to comply with this policy, but also to encourage others to comply with the policy." Students and educators are encouraged to step up and say something if they see someone smoking on campus, but no further action would occur.
This August marked five years of the policy's creation, and with that the smoke-free committee has to decide if the policy should be modified in any way, but the current non-punitive stance will stay.
“There are other schools within the Florida state system that do have a reporting mechanism in place. But it’s not something right now that we are looking at doing,” said Dr. Mary Schmidt-Owens, associate director of Medical Health Administration at UCF Student Health Services and co-chair of the campus smoke-free committee.
According to The National College Health Assessment, from 2011 to 2016, UCF student support for the campaign has increased from 88 percent to 93 percent.
Some students are unaware that a policy exists outside of the “UCF is proud to be a smoke-free campus” signs they see on buildings. Wyatt Cunningham, a 21-year-old film major, said he wasn’t aware a policy was in place, but thinks a non-punitive approach isn’t the best way to go.
“If more people knew it was non-punitive I think more people would smoke,” Cunningham said.
What some students don’t know is that the policy applies to the entirety of campus, not just the buildings. As it stands, the policy states, “The University of Central Florida prohibits smoking on all university owned, operated, leased and/or controlled properties in order to maintain a healthy and safe environment for its faculty, staff, students and visitors.”
According to Schmidt-Owens, this policy applies to all UCF property: The Arboretum, Rosen Campus, Lake Nona and other regional campuses unless that campus has its own policy already in place.
Schmidt Owens said the goal of the policy is not to punish people for smoking, but rather to ensure a safe and clean environment while on the UCF premises.
“We don’t ask people to quit smoking, we ask them not to smoke while here on campus. They can use a patch, they can use the gum, they can use the lozenges whenever they come here ... ” Schmidt-Owens said. “I think that's the piece that troubles me; is that it’s not something we’re asking you to quit permanently, but at least while here on campus to respect the policy and respect others.”
Many students and faculty are aware of the policy, as it is shared at faculty, freshmen and transfer orientations. All orientation leaders and resident assistants are trained to share the policy. Additionally, information about the policy is shared at a multitude of health expos throughout the year.
“There is no reason why anyone should not be familiar with the policy. I don’t know how it could be missed,” Schmidt-Owens said.
Since the policy has been in place, the “everyday use of cigarettes” among UCF students had dropped from 3.6 percent in 2011 to 1.1 percent in 2016, according to The National College Health Assessment.
"As a former smoker, I definitely felt quietly shunned for smoking," said computer engineering major and former smoker Pat Black. "There's a pretty clear stigma nearly anywhere on campus. If you ask me, that's a good thing."
Some students can be seen on campus with e-cigarettes or vape pens, which produce a form of water vapor, but the policy states these also fall under their definition of smoking. The policy defines smoking as “inhaling, exhaling, burning or carrying any lighted or heated cigar, cigarette, pipe, or other inhalant device in which tobacco, tobacco substitute or other material, is smoked.”
“I consider all smoking, smoking,” Peter McGuire, a 21-year-old entertainment management major, said.
McGuire said he rarely sees people smoking on campus, but remains neutral when he does. He also noted that the signs at the Rosen campus are much more prominent than they are on the main campus.
While many students rarely see people actually smoking, the cigarette butts lying around are proof that it is still happening. According to Schmidt-Owens, three places that are filled with the most trash and debris are the Business Administration, Global UCF and Harris Engineering buildings. The space between the Business Administration building and Einstein Bros. Bagels is particularly bothersome to Schmidt-Owens.
“There’s a wall right there and for some reason [students] seem to gather and smoke, which is a little bit disturbing because there are signs all along there,” Schmidt-Owens said.
The smoke-free committee will continue to offer smoking cessation classes, as well as attempt to raise awareness of the policy with T-shirts, banners, signs and outreach events.
“We have offered smoking cessation classes, and continue to offer them for people to try and quit," Schmidt-Owens said. "I know that it’s an addiction, and I know it's something that people are going to do until they are ready to make that change.”