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Survey reports decrease in campus smoking since 2002

The university’s Health Advisory Committee recently released a survey requesting information about smoking behavior on campus.

More than 60 percent of students surveyed said they were bothered in some way by smokers.

Also, an 8 percent decrease in student smokers has occurred since 2002.

Lane Neubauer, the co-chairman of the Health Advisory Committee, said that several students had contacted the university with concerns regarding smokers on campus. Neubauer, who is also an associate dean of students, said the Health Advisory Committee has had this issue brought up before. However, this time was different.

It was brought up by students.

While keeping the names confidential, Neubauer said that several students who were asthmatic came to the committee with their concerns.

“One student in particular had to get her room changed because she was on the first floor, and students were smoking outside of her room,” Neubauer said.

There were also complaints that students were turning on empty dryers in the residential laundry rooms during the winter. These students used the hot exhaust produced by the dryers to keep warm while they smoked outside.

Not only have students contacted the university about these smoking issues, but so have several of their parents.

“They were concerned for students who had asthma and other allergies, that their conditions were being exacerbated because of having to walk through smoke,” Neubauer said. In response, the Health Advisory Committee sent out several messages asking students, faculty and staff members to fill out a smoking survey in order to gain a better understanding of where people stand on the issue. “We’re not suggesting solutions at this point, we’re just looking at ‘Do people think it’s a problem?’” Neubauer said.

The survey showed that 52.8 percent of the respondents reported that they believed that people smoking close to campus buildings is an issue, with 62.1 percent stating they are bothered when a smoker walks past them while smoking.

While going over the statistics from the smoking survey this year, Neubauer said that 24 percent of smokers reported that they would be in favor of a smoking cessation regulation, while 17 percent said they were not sure.

According to the National College Health Assessment, 53 percent of respondents said they believe that the average student is a smoker. However, at La Salle statistics show that in 2008 only five percent of the respondents claim to be smokers, whereas in 2002, 13 percent reported that they smoked.

It is believed that this misunderstanding results from how one perceives a group of people smoking.

“When you see five to eight smokers outside of the food court, it’s easy to look at them and say ‘Wow, there are a lot of smokers on campus,’” Neubauer said.

Kate Ward-Gaus, coordinator of the Alcohol and Other Drug Education Center, said that another misunderstanding regards the small portion of students who only smoke when they are out drinking.

Ward-Gaus said that when people see that group of “social smokers,” they tend to make assumptions that La Salle has a lot of other smokers, as well.

“It’s when people are out in a social environment, and then they see all these smokers out there drinking, but they don’t know that that’s the only time that person smokes,” Ward-Gaus said.

The smoking survey can be found on the La Salle portal under the announcements tab.

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