Time is ticking before smokers on all university system of Maryland campuses will be told to "light up" elsewhere.
The University’s Board of Regents voted last month in support of a smoking-break ban.
School officials hope going smoke-free next June will help smokers kick the habit and prevent others from picking it up. But, critics say the ban infringes on their basic human rights.
“So this is the rolling tobacco that I smoke,” said Clara Izquierdo, who works on campus.
But this time next year, Izquierdo will have to keep her tobacco zipped up. The University of Maryland is among the dozen USM institutions going smoke-free.
“For me, it's not a good idea. I think that now, I'm not bothering anyone. I go outside for smoking and I stay away from other people,” Izquierdo said.
And at 27 years-old, she says it’s her right to do so.
“It's always good to quit smoking, but maybe it's a decision I have to make. I don't want other people to tell me what I have to do,” she said.
University leaders say they're adopting a policy that curbs second-hand smoke and promotes health. Each institution will spend the next year brainstorming possible fines and disciplinary measures. But, not everyone is convinced that's time well spent.
“There's so much that's unhealthy. You can go down here and get the worst food and everybody does it cause it's 3 dollars like are we really going to be that much sticklers of public health when we have McDonalds on campus, when there are cars and buses blowing smoke everywhere?” said UMD English professor Willie Davis.
The “Americans for nonsmokers' rights" Foundation reports campus tobacco bans have risen from zero a decade ago to more than 700 today. In College Park, many people say even the sniff of smoke makes them cringe.
“Smoking to me is bad. It's bad for all of us, I think,” said UMD student Jia Sun.
“I run from smoke,” said UMD College of Education professor Sharon Fries-Britt
Fries-Britt says in her 26 years working on campus, she’s seen the number of people reaching for cigarettes drop—and thinks a ban on smoking will stop others from starting.
“For me, I think it's a good move. I think it's a good move. I'm sure it'll be a huge adjustment for people who smoke and may think it's an infringement on rights and opportunities to smoke, but I have to honestly say I think it's a good idea,” Fries-Britt said.
The smoking ban will also prohibit the sale of tobacco and smoking-related products on campus. It's up to each university president to decide whether to modify the rules—and designate a "very limited area" where smoking can occur. Each institution has until June 30th 2013 to implement the rules.
Salisbury Towson and Frostburg State Universities are smoke-free, as well as Montgomery College.