Michael Wenyi Li / Sun Senior Photographer

Members of the Employee Assembly meet to discuss campus-wide proposals.

December 5, 2019

Lackluster Survey Results Stall Proposed Cornell Campus Tobacco Ban

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After a survey spent nearly a month polling Cornellians for their views on nicotine, the results of what could have proved to be a step towards banning tobacco from the entirety of campus are finally in: little support for a smoking suspension.

At an Employee Assembly meeting held Wednesday night, members discussed the outcome of the survey — which revealed a meager 14.7 percent response rate and ambiguous attitudes among faculty, student and staff on whether the University should take a harsher stance on tobacco.

While initially billed as a move that could prompt the University Assembly to formally recommend that administration officials enact a tobacco ban, the survey’s tepid participation and unclear findings have, instead, elicited a more measured response, The Sun previously reported.

“I still think there needs to be a lot of debate,” said David Hiner, voting member and LGBTQ+ Representative At-Large for the E.A. “We would probably draft a resolution that would recommend Cornell to do a feasibility study of offered cessation programs, how we could further enforce the 25-foot rule and, then, see what it would take for Cornell to actually enact a nicotine use ban.”

While the survey was spawned by recent fears that nicotine use has spiralled into a near epidemic, it could, despite its low turnout, conclude that smoking rates across campus were low — and surprisingly so, Hiner said.

“What is interesting is that the perception that people smoke is much higher,” Hiner said. “It makes you wonder if there is a perception that there is an issue of people smoking across campus when there maybe isn’t.”

That sentiment is apparently not unique to Cornell, Hiner added.  There is a nationwide perception across many universities that more people are smoking on campus than is actually the case, a trend that also holds true for increasingly ubiquitous e-cigarettes, he said.

According to the survey, “most people aren’t exposed to secondhand smoke when going across campus,” Hiner said, contradicting the common consensus that many perceive supposedly high smoking rates to be a widespread, and growing, problem.

Most respondents stated that they would support the proposed two to three year process of establishing a nicotine free campus, which would first begin with a university-wide resolution encouraging the enforcement of current smoking policy on campus.

However, in an online public debate conducted by Hiner alongside the survey, about two-thirds of respondents commented that they did not support a total nicotine ban on campus, with many instead preferring stricter enforcement of existing policies, such as the rule that requires smokers from standing at least 25 feet away from public buildings.