By: Jacob Isenberg
USC student Christian Lawhon calmly enjoys a cigarette outside of a dormitory on University of South Carolina's campus on a sunny afternoon. To him it's business as usual, and while he acknowledges USC's policy banning tobacco use on campus that was implemented just over a year ago, the junior has no plans of making any adjustments to his daily routine.
“I'm not sure why the university would have the jurisdiction to restrict my rights as an American. This is America and so I should be able to… if I want to smoke a cigarette I don't see any harm in that, the only harm I'm doing is to myself,” Lawhon said.
Across campus, beside the Pickens Street Bridge, Alex Boatwright finishes his cigarette, and casually by putting it out and throwing the butt out the on ground. Boatwright has never followed the policy, and has no respect for it.
“There's no actual punishment they can just tell me to stop, but like I don't have to listen to you when you tell me to stop. You're just a student or anything, I'm not breaking the law. There's this rule that you can't smoke on campus, and yet I pay thousands of dollars to here every semester. If I wanna smoke a cigarette outside walking to class. I'm going to smoke a cigarette outside walking to class,” he said.
It is almost guaranteed that you will come across someone smoking at one of the campus hot spots, which include beside the library, outside of the law school as well as dormitories. There are around numerous signs posted all over campus saying that it is a tobacco-free zone, yet on the ground you'll see numerous cigarette butts. It's as if the policy is having a hard time making an impact, and doesn't have any teeth. However, Healthy Carolina Director Jessica Johnston insists that there are real punishments for repeat violators.
“The first offense is they actually come to student conduct, but they are referred to campus wellness for basically an assessment to see if they are ready to change (smoking habits), and get some education about the harms of tobacco,” she said. Johnston says that the second offense included a $50 fine, and third time offenders would have to complete mandatory community service along with a $75 fine
The problem is that the policy is student enforced and Johnston said that in the year the policy has been put in to place not a single person has received a second or third offense.
Tobacco Free USC is intended to be a simple process to make it easy for students to enforce. It calls for students to ask the smoker to respect the policy and stop. If a smoker refuses, the student can write that individual up to student conduct that constitutes the first offense mentioned earlier. But the problem is very few students want to patrol the premises for tobacco users.
“No that's way too much work, and I don't want to get anybody in trouble,” said junior Logan Freeze.
“I'm just not confrontational enough to do that,” said senior Dhanika Patel.
The policy can't be enforced by USCPD which is why Johnson says it is largely up to the students to step up, and politely confront smokers. She also says later this year school officials will discuss adjusting the policy to impose fines or mandatory community service for first time offenders.