UM staffers confront smoking ban

By Errol Castens/NEMS Daily Journal

OXFORD – Some University of Mississippi employees oppose the campus-wide smoking ban that is set to become official on Jan. 1, 2013.
For the past few years, outdoor smoking has been officially limited to a few dozen sites around campus.
Some employees say the ban is wrong for a host of reasons. Jeanette Wells, a smoker who works in the Bursar’s Office, said the ban is too trivial a matter for public safety officers.
“Police need to enforce the law, not policy,” she said.
Deborah Smith, a nonsmoking Bursar employee, said employees will be expected to intervene with smokers, a responsibility she does not wish to have. She added that smoking zones were never sufficiently publicized.
“Mark an area and the smokers can be happy, and I don’t have to walk through that area,” she said.
Cathi Henry, a smoker who works in the Bursar’s Office, said Staff Council initially declined to support the ban but gave in to administration pressure.
While she believes employees can still smoke in their cars, campus maintenance jobs don’t lend themselves to that.
“Physical Plant people are not allowed to clock out and go back to their vehicles,” she said, noting some would have to go the entire workday without a smoke.
Wells said freshmen are required to live on campus, and smokers among them will be in a bind.
“They’ll just have to root hog or die,” she said.
Ole Miss officials have said the ban will help some people stop smoking and keep others from ever starting the habit, but Smith said her husband’s experience with a smoking-cessation prescription was too disconcerting.
“He had all the symptoms that they say you can get on the commercials,” she said. “I told him, ‘Smoke, please!'”
Smith also fears that if the university can ban smoking, it may go further in controlling behavior.
“The next thing will be that you can’t have anything but water in the Coke machine, that you can’t have candy,” she said.
errol.castens@journalinc.com