Nearly one year ago after a vigorous marketing campaign, The University of Tennessee – Chattanooga officially instituted its campus-wide smoking and vaping ban. It was a nice idea, and the University had good intentions by putting it in place. Here’s the problem: it’s not working.
According to multiple sources, and my own two eyes, the new campus-wide ban on smoking and vaping have failed to eliminate smoking on campus. UTC’s official website states that “smoking is prohibited in and on all University controlled property.” I got a chance to interview two UTC students and a UTC professor about their views on the smoking ban.
Student 1, who doesn’t vape or smoke, was particularly frustrated with the lack of effectiveness that the ban has had. “I see students vaping all the time in the dorms. It’s so easy to carry it around with you because of how mobile it is and how easy it is to hide it.” UTC has banned smoking in dorms, but as you can see, it hasn’t stopped students.
The UTC professor echoed this same attitude, saying “Where haven’t I seen them? I’ve seen them everywhere. I don’t necessarily keep track of where I see them, but I think that’s because I see them everywhere.”
I even got the chance to talk to a student who does vape on campus (Student 2). According to her, she isn’t even shy about vaping on campus. “I mostly vape in the bathroom or in between classes when I’m walking on campus,” she said of her habit. I asked her whether or not she had experienced any resistance to vaping, and she offered that she pretty much had not. “I’ve never been confronted by anyone about it, but I may have got some dirty looks, that’s about it though.”
It’s clear that UTC isn’t enforcing this rule at all, and that it really isn’t working. I don’t want to be too critical here, because I applaud the university for taking the steps to eliminate smoking and vaping on campus. But with time, this ban is looking more and more like a political stunt.
I decided to ask these people what their thoughts were on the effectiveness of the ban. Student 1 said “Obviously it’s not working, because I’m still seeing it. And I still have to breathe secondhand smoke from my suitemates. People are going to do what they want, and they’re always going to find a way to break the rules if they really want to.”
Student 2 (the vaper) was a little more optimistic about the ban, but not very. “I think it has eliminated cigarette use for the most part, but I really haven’t seen a decline in the amount of people vaping. It seems about the same as when it was allowed. People may try to be more discreet but that’s the only improvement I have seen.”
I asked the professor if he thought there were any solutions to this issue. “I think you have to do it through societal pressure. I don’t think any form of top-down regulation is going to work, it has to come from their peers.”
On one hand, the UTC Smoking ban has done a pretty good job of eliminating cigarette smoking on campus. On the other hand, the ban has had little to no effect on vaping, which is becoming increasingly dangerous.