Apartments to be smoke-free

angela.mccoy

Residents currently living in the on-campus apartments will notice something missing from their room when returning for the fall 2008 semester: The smell of cigarette smoke.

After becoming a significant concern among residents and staff, all on-campus apartments will be smoke-free starting Aug. 16. Since it opened, Woodland Park has been the only apartment building to prohibit smoking.

Kevin Conlin, coordinator of apartment services, said the number of complaints and negative comments has increased in recent years, with more tenants expressing concerns about issues such as allergies and asthma.

“It’s clear that we have all become more aware of the health concerns that come with being around cigarette smoke,” Conlin said. “[Residents] increasingly report that they don’t want to even smell smoke in their apartment or as they walk to and from their apartment.”

Last March, an e-mail survey was sent out to the 320 apartment residents (with the exception of Woodland Park residents). Of the 151 people who responded, 105 supported going smoke-free for the subsequent academic year while 22 were against it. One anonymous response stated: “The university gives them the right to [smoke], but it is proving detrimental to my health.”

The decision was a result of discussions that have taken place in the past year and a half. Feedback came from several sources, including student residents, ASNMU representatives and administrative leadership.

Conlin said the survey was a good opportunity to see that the information residents had been bringing to focus groups, advisory board meetings and the presidents’ roundtable-a group of hall leaders who meet regularly with Housing and Residence Life staff-was consistent with how the majority of the apartment resident body was feeling about smoking.

Brianne Johnson, senior English writing major and community advisor (CA) in Woodland Park, said that people shouldn’t have to put up with second-hand smoke.

“Although I am a supporter of smokers’ rights, I personally think that this decision was overdue. If you can smell smoke in your apartment, does that not affect your personal living environment? I think so, and you shouldn’t have to live with it,” Johnson said.

Emily Westphal, senior art and design education major and CA in Norwood said she also agrees with the change.

“Some tenants have reported having trouble sleeping and studying, which are two rights guaranteed to all NMU students I believe the cons outweighed the pros in this situation,” she said.

Westphal added that although the majority of responses have supported going smoke-free, some are still unhappy about it.

“Some heavy smokers are not happy with the loss of freedom to smoke. They feel like they are losing a right they once had. They are not looking forward to going outside to smoke, and see it as unfair,” Westphal said.

One such student is Joe Paris, a senior social science/social welfare major and resident of the Norwood Apartments. Paris said the ban gives too much control to the university-a factor that could cause him to move at the end of the semester.

“The rent is paid to provide the tenants a space for privacy to do what they please within the rules,” said Paris.

Nikki Hopp, a senior graphic communication major and resident of the Center Street Apartments, said she and other members of presidents’ roundtable are brainstorming ideas to keep smokers happy, such as setting up an area outside that will provide some comfort but will enforce the 30-foot rule.

Although some smokers are unhappy, Conlin said the change was implemented because of growing concern expressed by residents.

“We believe it is a positive change for our apartment environments, but even more, an important opportunity to better meet the expressed needs and concerns of our student resident consumers,” Conlin said.