An increasing amount of cigarette butt litter at Discovery Park has concerned students, who also find UNT’s current no-smoking policy problematic.
The policy was originally established when the Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas (CPRIT) required all universities it finances research for to become a tobacco-free campus. UNT police are not allowed to enforce the policy as students and faculty are primarily responsible for reporting violators.
Computer science senior Nathan Sutphen, who frequents Discovery Park, is one of the many students who believes the smoking ban cannot be well regulated. Sutphen said he thinks the policy is hypocritical because of UNT’s reputation as a “green” campus. He pointed out that the “no smoking” signs at Discovery Park are melted due to students using the signs to put out cigarettes.
“At Discovery Park it’s just litter,” Sutphen said. “It’s even bad over by Willis too, but that’s less noticeable because it’s more hidden.”
Sutphen suggested that a solution would be to reinstall designated bins to put out cigarettes, which had been removed following the ban.
“Just three of those, because there’s three main tables [at the Discovery Park garden] and that would basically eliminate [the problem].” Sutphen says.
In terms of enforcement, the policy states that witnesses should request the violator to seek compliance informally.
“My suggestion is that someone who sees someone violating the policy should simply stop and remind the person that we are a no-smoking campus,” Elizabeth With, the vice president for Student Affairs, said. “My experience is that most of the violators aren’t aware of the policy and that they immediately move to put out their cigarette.”
If informal requests are unsuccessful, the policy states that witnesses should contact the Office of the Vice President of Student Affairs or Human Resources. This would require knowing the violator’s name, which is why Sutphen and other students believe that the ban is not actually enforceable.
“If you are unaware of the person’s name, these offices will work to try to determine who the person is,” With said. “If there is a location that has multiple violations, more signage can be added to help dissuade further violations.”
There have been very few referrals over the years, according to With. The Dean of Students Office has had 6 referrals and 111 complaints since the policy was implemented.
Computer science senior Peyton Pritchard said she believes the smoking ban should be lifted in order to control the problem.
“We cannot make people quit smoking, but we can provide the necessary tools to help keep the environment clean,” Pritchard said.
At least once a semester, Pritchard said she heads to Discovery Park and fills grocery bags to the top with litter, including hundreds of cigarette butts.
“It’s always disheartening to return to an area I cleaned just days before just to see it covered in trash all over again,” Pritchard said.
Featured Illustration: Miranda Thomas