Northwest State bans smoking in dorms

Sunday, October 21, 2001

MARYVILLE, Mo. -- Northwest Missouri State University sophomore Meagan Phillips and her friends often spend all night outside her residence hall.

She's not just enjoying a pleasant evening or getting away from an obnoxious roommate.

She and her friends are smoking, in the only place they are allowed. This fall, the university banned smoking in all of its residence halls.

"We go outside and smoke whenever everybody on my floor runs by and says, 'smoke break,'" Phillips said.

Dormitories on the campus in Maryville joined other campus buildings and public spaces in being completely smoke-free. The school is one of just a few colleges and universities in Missouri to ban smoking.

The University of Missouri-Columbia announced this summer that it planned to prohibit indoor smoking but would start this fall with only a few dorms, followed by a campus-wide ban next year.

Northwest decided to go smoke-free after a poll of the student body.

"The support to do it was overwhelming," said Kent Porterfield, vice president for student affairs. "Given the obvious health implications of smoking, it was the right thing to do."

Although the change was made mainly for health reasons, Porterfield said smoking also creates a greater risk of fire and makes it harder to clean dorm rooms when the semester ends.

Some denied habit

Creating smoking floors hasn't always worked. Sometimes nonsmokers have been paired with smokers when incoming students have denied their habit on residence forms for fear their parents will find out, Comerford said.

"We try to cluster smokers together, and we get no more than a couple of dozen that say they smoke," Comerford said. "It typically doesn't cause a problem, but occasionally a smoker will get paired with someone who has asthma."

Comerford said the smoking issue is being discussed with students and the administration. He said a change in policy wouldn't occur until next fall.

"It's important to get feedback from students," he said.

At Northwest, more than 90 percent of students who were polled supported the nonsmoking policy in dorms, Porterfield said.

Officially, Missouri Western has 27 students in smoking areas out of 1,045 living on campus. Northwest had 480 students on smoking floors last year.

Mark Hetzler, director of residential life at Northwest, said most students appear to be honoring the new policy. This year, only one smoking violation has been reported in the university's dorms.

Students had mixed reactions to the new policy.

"The halls don't stink now," said sophomore Leslie Inman, a nonsmoker.

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