All tobacco products banned on USF campus

Smoking - and all tobacco products - are now banned on the campus of the University of South Florida.

On Monday, January 4, the university's tobacco-free policy took effect. The rules will apply to students, faculty, staff and visitors. Smoking will also be banned at campus concerts, theater and sporting events.

"I think it's great," said Casey Lacey, who was visiting the campus with her sister, a current student. "It's a good idea, so that other people don't have to be breathing smoke when they don't want to."

Going tobacco-free at the main campus in Tampa has been the university's plan for several years. USF campuses in St. Petersburg and Sarasota are already tobacco free. They initiated the ban slowly, by first limiting smoking to 25 designated areas.

"Smoking and tobacco use can affect others as well, with second hand smoke or various other things," said Beverly Daly, the director of USF Environmental Health and Safety. "USF cares about our faculty and staff, and we want everyone to have a healthy experience when they're here."

Signs are posted on the doors of university buildings and in former smoking areas to remind students of the change when they return from winter break.

"I feel like it will be inconvenient at first, because obviously, they won't be able to smoke wherever they want," said Lacey.

The 25 former smoking areas are currently being used as outdoor seating space, but university officials are considering using the space to expand the campus bike sharing program.

It will be difficult for campus police to enforce the policy, so the university is relying on "community policing" to make sure people follow the rules.

"It's everyone's responsibility to approach the person to say, 'I'm not sure if you've heard, USF is now tobacco and smoke free,' and ask them to discontinue use of the product," said Daly.

If a student or staff member is caught smoking, they can be reported to Student Rights and Responsibilities or a faculty supervisor, according to officials. Disciplinary action could follow for repeat offenders.

The university does not plan to offer alternative off-campus smoking areas. Instead, USF health officials plan to provide cessation programs, free of charge, to students, faculty, staff and their families if interested.