Posted: March 31, 2015 at 5:54 pm

By Chloe Dawson, Jessica Rangel and Sara Wells

The opening of Sheetz at University Place is a first for the company — it’s a grocery store model that sells no gasoline. However, according to the Daily Athenaeum, the opening of Sheetz is also a first for West Virginia University. It is the first store on campus to sell tobacco products since the smoking ban inauguration in 2013.

Sheetz is the most recent example of how the campus-wide smoking ban is more of a recommendation than an enforced policy.

West Virginia University’s Morgantown campus became tobacco-free in 2013. Tobacco is banned from all parts of campus and includes cigarettes, cigars, e-cigs and chewing tobacco. The ban also prohibits the sale of tobacco at all on-campus stores.

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Click here for an interactive map of the smoking hot spots at WVU.

In 2008, a task force comprised of three students, three faculty and three staff members was formed to develop a policy for the campus to adopt regarding tobacco on campus. The task force  met for more than a year and used input from city government members and health officials. The  task force used the ban previously implemented by the Health Sciences campus as a model for the  entire university.

“The recommendation from the task force was to make a tobacco-free campus, which obviously is different than the initial smoke-free campus,” said Associate Provost C.B. Wilson, chair of the task force. “This allowed the policy to go beyond smoking and includes chewing tobacco too.”

The main concern for the group was the issue of second-hand smoke on campus property. Concerns included the amount of second-hand smoke that occurred around doorways and Personal Rapid Transportation (PRT) stations, where groups of smokers would congregate. Another concern was the amount of trash tobacco created, such as butts from cigarettes and spit from chewing tobacco.

Once the policy was developed, it was presented to then-WVU President, James P. Clements, who drafted the policy into a formal document. The document was given to the Student Government of WVU to implement, which included a 30-day period for comment from the university community. Many of the comments received were negative. Provost Wilson stated that although a majority of the comments were of concern, there were not many comments altogether.

WVU is one of many campuses whom have adopted the policy. According to the American Nonsmokers’ Rights Foundation, 1,159 campuses in the U.S. are smoke-free. In addition, 783 are tobacco-free. 

The first policy on campus concerning tobacco took place in the 1990s, when WVU banned smoking inside campus buildings. Provost Wilson explained that when this policy was first adopted, it took time for smokers to adjust, and he believes this is the case for the recent tobacco ban as well.

In 2008, a task force comprised of three students, three faculty and three staff members was formed to develop a policy for the campus to adopt regarding tobacco on campus. The task force met for more than a year and used input from city government members and health officials. The task force used the ban previously implemented by the Health Sciences campus as a model for the entire university.

Provost Wilson explains on the interactive map that the smoking ban may need a “student-generation” to come through the university before the policy is successful.

Even though there is a smoking ban, there still has been negative feedback from the community.

One issue the ban faces is enforcement. The ban is a policy, not a law, so University Police have no control over who smokes on campus. Those that are caught have a meeting with an assistant dean instead of being referred to the Student Conduct Board. The board can only enforce citations worth suspension or expulsion, and students on the board note that smoking on campus does not fall into that category.

However, in the formal document, in part 5.1 of Section 2, breaking the policy leads to disciplinary actions up to expulsion. This makes it very hard for any students to take the citations seriously.

“5.1 All members of the University community must comply with this policy. Violation of the policy by students may subject them to disciplinary sanctions, up to and including expulsion. Violation of this policy by employees may subject them to disciplinary action, up to and including termination of employment. Violation of this policy by other members of the University community may subject them to removal from the WVU Campus. The President’s designees shall be responsible for enforcement of this policy.”

Students and faculty going off campus into community members’ lawns to smoke, leaving butts and trash behind, has been an issue as well. Students also complain of smoke being blown in their face while walking to class, noting that their second-hand smoke intake is about the same. This has been an issue that is subject to the main-campus smoking ban and not the Health Science campus because of its layout. WVU’s main campus borders with housing and public streets, whereas the Health Science campus does not have this issue.

After speaking with students on WVU’s Downtown campus (see interactive map), it appears the ban has not been successful because it doesn’t have consequences. All of the smokers interviewed mentioned that while they try to hide the habit, they don’t care about getting caught, because they won’t get in trouble. Non-smokers spoke of the lack of consequences in a negative way, but agreed the ban may take a few years to go into affect.