Student senate continues conversation on smoke-free campus

Proposed ban would encompass the entire university

By Peter Chhum | 2/2/14 7:42pm

When it comes to smoking at Grand Valley State University, the magic number is 25. One must be 25 feet away from any academic building, 25 feet away from any bus stop on university property, and 25 feet away from the Little Mac Bridge.

However, the 25-foot rule might soon encompass the entire campus.

In a new proposal brought up by Student Senate, GVSU could become a smoke-free university, banning the use of tobacco on all campus property.

Should the proposal pass, GVSU would join the company of Saginaw Valley State University, the University of Michigan and, most recently, Central Michigan University, among other Michigan colleges that have embraced a tobacco-free policy.

The proposal has received support from several departments including Health and Wellness, which recently began a task force to ensure GVSU is a healthy university.

GVSU Health and Wellness specialist Lindsey DesArmo said she believes that making the campus smoke-free could be beneficial for students, faculty and staff health.

“GVSU would need to look at other universities and trends,” DesArmo said. “From a health perspective, it could be positive. However, if GVSU were to go smoke free, I believe there would need to be support systems and processes in place to benefit everyone, not just non-smokers.”

The task force recently surveyed 600 students in regard to health and their environment. The questions addressed an array of health topics including smoking. The results will help determine the next step for the senate’s proposal.

The current GVSU Smoking Policy, while acknowledging smoking as an addictive activity, also recognizes the possible dangers of secondhand smoke, stating, “It is the responsibility of smokers to be respectful of non-smokers in choosing a location in which to smoke so as to minimize non-smokers’ contact with second-hand smoke.”

Secondhand smoke is a known human carcinogen and is one of the main reasons for the proposal. While effects of secondhand smoke may not have an immediate impact on one’s health, the continual exposure is what might be hazardous in the future.

According to, tobacco smoke contains more than 7,000 chemical compounds, and more than 250 of them are known to be harmful. At least 69 of them are known to cause cancer. An extreme amount of secondhand smoke exposure may result in heart disease or lung cancer.

From a maintenance approach, cigarettes pose another problem. They are found on the ground as much as they are in their designated receptacles, said Tim Thimmesch, associate vice president of Facilities Services.

“Cigarette butts are a litter problem across campus,” Thimmesch said. “We have provided extra receptacles across campus to help with that problem, but is a constant maintenance item.”

The current policy assumes the individuals will voluntarily adhere to the regulations with minimal enforcement. However, Thimmesch said this is not always the case.

The senate will continue to work with departments across campus on the proposal and may conduct a campus-wide survey to get feedback from students.

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