What was supposed to be a debate over two potential resolutions—one in support of a tobacco ban on Stony Brook campus and one against it—turned into a conversation about how to best implement such a ban and how to help students quit smoking at the Undergraduate Student Government senate meeting on Thursday, March 26.
James Alrassi, the USG executive vice president, proposed both resolutions as a way to let the senate decide which side of the university-wide debate over tobacco to take, but by the end of meeting, neither resolution was brought up for a vote. The senate discussion came in the midst of a SUNY-wide effort to ban tobacco use, including smoking and chewing tobacco, on all SUNY campuses.
“The university hasn’t made any indication of what the ultimate goal is,” USG Vice President of Academic Affairs Steven Adelson said. “They’re trying to reach out to different groups on campus to get an understanding of what people’s thoughts are, and once they have a vision, I think we should take a stand, but I don’t think we should take a stand now without really understanding what the vision is because the vision hasn’t been established yet.”
Ahmed Belazi, the director of planning and staff development in the Office of the Vice President for Student Affairs, said his office is also trying to reach out to students to get their views on a possible tobacco ban.
“We want to be as inclusive and as effective as possible,” Belazi said. “We don’t want this to fail. We don’t want this to be something that works just a little bit. We want to make sure this is something that addresses as many identities, as many thoughts and as many issues as possible.”
Alrassi said he was in favor of the use of designated smoking areas and a “balanced and regimented implementation of the program as opposed to going cold turkey particularly with banning cigarettes smoking all across campus.”
One issue that the senate discussed was the enforcement of not only a potential tobacco ban but also Stony Brook’s current smoking policy, which bans smoking within 25 feet of all buildings.
“I know as an RA [resident assistant], we’re supposed to enforce the 25 feet,” Sen. Nathan Blazon-Brown said. “Sometimes smokers will back up and be like ‘Is this 25 feet?’ It’s not as ambiguous if you draw a yellow circle in the ground and say ‘This is where you can smoke.’”
Another topic of discussion was ways to help students quit smoking.
“It is a habit; nicotine is a physical addiction,” Alrassi said. “You can’t expect people who have been smoking for a number of years to just outright quit.”
He pointed out that nicotine gum and patches are available for free at the Student Health Services office.
“You can get training to do anything,” Sen. Marissa Peterson said. “I’m trained to give EpiPens and CPR, so I’m sure if all the RAs had to go through a few trainings to be able distribute Nicorette or whatever, that would be pretty cool.”
In June 2012, the SUNY Board of Trustees adopted a resolution that called for legislation to ban tobacco use on all SUNY property by Jan. 1, 2014. But no piece of legislation regarding the resolution has passed in the state Senate or Assembly.
One bill introduced by Assemblywoman Deborah Glick in 2012 was not considered by the Assembly Higher Education Committee. Another bill from Assemblyman Walter Mosley was reported from the Assembly Higher Education Committee in 2013 but was not considered further by the Assembly Codes Committee. A bill sponsored by Sen. Kemp Hannon was not considered by the Senate Higher Education Committee.
Several SUNY schools—SUNY Oswego, SUNY Cortland, University at Buffalo and Erie Community College—have already implemented tobacco bans without state legislation.
Stony Brook University President Samuel L. Stanley Jr. has expressed support of a tobacco ban on Stony Brook’s campuses.
The only Stony Brook campus that is completely tobacco-free is the east campus, where the Stony Brook University Hospital, the Health Sciences Tower and the Long Island State Veterans Home are located. The east campus tobacco ban has been in place since 2009.