This is a guest column by Calvin Warner, a Georgia State student in the Philosophy MA program.
Georgia State ought to do more to uphold its commitment to a tobacco-free campus.
Around campus, signs have been posted indicating that Georgia State is a tobacco-free campus. The university code of conduct reaffirms this commitment, stating “Smoking and tobacco use of any kind is prohibited on all GSU owned and/or leased locations… Smoking is also prohibited within 25-feet of all GSU building entrances and exits.”
Georgia State administration routinely fails to enforce its own standards.
I do not have data on how tobacco-free campuses generally enforce their rules, but as my undergraduate institution was also a tobacco-free campus, I know for certain that the meaning of “tobacco-free” can vary widely.
At my undergraduate institution, very rarely did I see smoking on campus. Those that did smoke on campus were fined or at the very least reprimanded by campus police. My undergraduate institution was committed to the health of its student body and regulating the use of tobacco products on campus was viewed as a critical part of this commitment.
Georgia State seems to have a much different attitude about how to interpret “tobacco-free.” I recognize that Georgia State has some unique challenges. The boundaries of campus can be a bit ambiguous, so at times the jurisdiction of Georgia State policies may be called into question. But this is not the case in the university plaza or outside the university library where students can regularly be seen smoking in large groups.
I would wager that almost every Georgia State student on campus comes into contact with secondhand smoke at least once every day. From time to time, one can even smell marijuana products being used in the university plaza. This is not an acceptable standard for a campus that claims to be committed to a tobacco-free environment.
Georgia State already recognizes the public health concerns associated with tobacco use. That’s presumably why the university adopted anti-tobacco policies in the first place. And while enforcement may offer unique challenges in a metropolitan environment like ours, the university plaza is sheltered from the rest of the city and is the de facto heart of our university. That smoking would be allowed here and indeed so openly and regularly seems to make a farce of our commitment to a tobacco-free campus.