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Smoking still prevalent on UTEP campus

Claudia Hernandez
Although UTEP has instituted a tobacco-free policy, students still continue to smoke on campus.

There has been a concern over UTEP’s Tobacco-free policy as it pertains to the awareness of the policy. Sightings of cigarette buds and the use of tobacco products across the campus have raised an issue for the students on campus.

The tobacco-free policy states the use of any tobacco products is prohibited in university buildings, grounds, sidewalks, walkways and university-owned property and applies to all students, faculty, staff, contractors and visitors.

“We noticed the environmental impact cigarettes are having on our community and how the exposure to secondhand smoke has detrimental effects as well,” tobacco-free policy program coordinator Nora Hernandez said.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 13 percent of adults aged 18 to 24 smoke cigarettes. 19.8 percent of smokers are high schoolers and 18.5 have completed some college.

The CDC also mentions that 41,000 people die from second-hand smoke a year and an estimated 37.8 million adults currently smoke cigarettes. 

The implementation of the tobacco-free policy at UTEP was created in 2013 and announced to the University’s staff and students in 2014. According to a survey in which UTEP students, faculty and staff participated in 56.4 percent reported being daily smokers for six months or longer.

Within the Tobacco Free UTEP website links are directed to assist students and staff on the University’s frequently asked questions page pertaining to the policy itself. When it comes to asking an individual to refrain from smoking on campus grounds the policy states:

“The individual should attempt to resolve the problem informally by requesting that the individual comply with the policy. If direct appeal fails and the behavior persists, the individual should contact the Office of Human Resources or Office of the Vice President of Student Affairs for referral to the appropriate administrative official.”

“I feel that security should be around more often, because who knows if the person who is using the tobacco becomes aggressive and feels offended,” said Christopher Zubia, a health promotion major at UTEP.

“We see this as an opportunity for individuals to inform each other that we have a smoke free policy, and smoking should not be allowed,” Hernandez said.

Enforcing the policy onto individuals that are using tobacco products by just word of mouth is one that a student may see as unbeneficial.

“I see everyone smoking across campus, so I think why not,” said senior nursing major Izaiah McCormick. “I like to use my Juul as often as possible to help me unwind from class (and) work, so if no one is enforcing it, why bother hiding it.”

Juul pens which McCormick is referring to are flavored electronic cigarettes that have become popular across the country as of late.

E-cigarettes, also known as vapes, are battery-operated devices that heat up liquid nicotine to generate an aerosol that users inhale.

This is not the first instance that the tobacco-free policy and smoking have not been embedded into the minds of the campus goers at UTEP.

Back in February of 2014, shortly after the policy was initiated, Hernandez and other members of the campus community took part in a cigarette bud cleanup.

When a cigarette bud was collected the bud was then placed into a plastic bag and an orange flag was put in that location to indicate that’s where a cigarette bud had been located.

“I could tell you within a period of three to four hours 3,000 flags went (up) very quickly,” Hernandez said.

With the recent findings of cigarette buds across campus, Hernandez explains the unawareness of the policy may be a combination of the prolonged time since the initiation of the policy and the large amounts of new students unaware of the policy.

Hernandez was part of the initiation of the tobacco-free policy and its implementation since its announcement in 2014.

“We recognize there needs to be more education and perhaps it needs to be done to new and incoming students at the University,” Hernandez said.

“Since the policy was announced back in 2014 four years have passed and now would be a great opportunity for us to start educating and communicating this policy again,” Hernandez added.

“There’s really no way to enforce the policy if campus police really wanted to crack down on it, No one’s stupid they’re not going to smoke in front of a campus cop,” McCormick said. “Everyone does it discreetly and the fact that UTEP is so spread out that makes it easy for someone to not get in trouble while doing it.”

Isaiah Ramirez may be reached at [email protected].

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About the Contributors
Isaiah Ramirez
Isaiah Ramirez is a senior multimedia journalism major at the University of Texas at El Paso. Isaiah has worked for the university’s paper The Prospector since Spring 2018 and has held the position as a sports editor and is currently a reporter at the publication. During the fall semesters he also works as an on-air reporter for Football Friday Nights a weekly radio show showcasing local football games broadcasted by 600 ESPN El Paso. He covers local news as well as local and UTEP sporting events such as football, men’s and women’s basketball, and has covered the annual Hyundai Sun Bowl game and two-time NBA champion Danny Green’s basketball camp here in the Sun City.
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Smoking still prevalent on UTEP campus