JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - Smokers might want to think again before they light up at one school on the First Coast.
A new ban on all tobacco products is now in effect on every property belonging to Florida State College at Jacksonville.
"This program was not designed to have people stop smoking or to violate any rights to smoke, but clearly it was designed to provide a safe, clean and healthy environment in and around all of our property in the college," said Dan Richardson, the Associate Vice-President of Human Resources at FSCJ.
Richardson said the majority of people on campus are non-smokers.
He said many complain about the smell and presence of of cigarette smoke.
A few years ago, he said, the college began looking at going totally tobacco free to cut down on complaints and ease concerns about secondhand smoke.
Richardson, citing data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said secondhand smoke is a known contributor to cancer.
"The majority of people on campus, including the majority of students are non-smokers, and we get a lot of complaints or suggestions we need to move to smoke or tobacco free because of the issue of that second hand smoke," he said.
So nearly a year ago the school's trustees approved the tobacco ban, which covers products like hookahs, cigarettes, chewing tobacco and electronic cigarettes.
The ban also applies not just to FSCJ students and staff, but also any person who visits any of the school's properties.
If they want to use a tobacco product, they will have to walk off campus instead of using the designated smoking areas.
"It would make the air cleaner for those who have to pass by as well as the health of those who are smoking," Richardson predicted about the effects of the ban.
But some smokers are less than thrilled. They say the ban is not fair.
"That should be something one decides on their own. If one wants to kill themselves, alright, cool, by all means let them do it. It's not like it's illegal," said student Emir Rodriguez.
FSCJ employee Pat Balon raised concerns with having to a lot more coming and going to smoke.
She said, "I have problems walking. I have problems with my hips and my knee, and I get to park in the handicap, but that's still walking in, walking out, walking in, walking out."
Balon said she will obey the rules, though.
As for Rodriguez, he said he will most likely wait to leave campus all together then smoke "a pack and a half."
Anyone caught breaking the ban will get a simple reminder during the first year.
However, Richardson said disciplinary action could be taken for repeat offenders since technically they would be breaking board policy.
Richardson said FSCJ is the 18th college in Florida to ban tobacco or smoking.
First Coast News