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No smoking fines yet on campus

BY JENNIFER DELGADO | MARCH 24, 2009 7:30 AM

Police officers have caught more than 140 people violating the smoking ban on the UI campus since the law went into effect in July 2008 — but they have yet to issue any tickets.

Officials said they will continue educating individuals about the ban, now in its ninth month, rather than writing the $50 citation. But there is no end date for this learning period.

“It would have to be pretty egregious for an officer to write a citation,” said Charles Green, the assistant vice president for the UI police. “My directions to my officers are to not write citations.”

UI police officers have different options when they encounter individuals breaking the policy — ask them to put out their cigarettes or walk to a different location, speak with their supervisors if the smokers work for the UI, or write tickets. Green said police officers use their discretion when deciding which action to follow.

But citing individuals is the last resort for the UI police — Green said ticketing will only be used for those who refuse to comply with the policy. He knows of only one case in which police officers consulted an individual’s supervisor, he said, and the violator then quickly cooperated.

Police will also continue to inform individuals about the policy because the university hosts many who may be new to campus, Green said.

“We’re trying to educate everyone on this, especially when we have visitors to the campus or hospital,” he said.

Some people said they believe the ban and the educational period hasn’t changed much — UI students still walk with lit cigarettes on the Pentacrest, and employees sometimes can be found on smoke breaks next to university buildings.

UI sophomore Tim Kelley said although the ban changed where he smokes, he sometimes lights up on campus because he knows he won’t get fined.

“I really don’t think it works,” the 19-year-old said. “For most people I know, it doesn’t deter them from smoking on campus.”

County and city officials are also continuing the learning period. Johnson County sheriff’s deputies and Iowa City police officers follow the same practice when enforcing the state’s smoking law.

“The goal of this law is not to write citations,” said Johnson County prosecutor Janet Lyness. “The goal of this is to get people to stop smoking.”

Since the law began last year, Iowa Department of Public Health officials have issued more than 600 letters of potential violations to state businesses — they sent six letters to businesses in Iowa City, including the UI. These possible infractions are being investigated, officials said.

In Iowa City, it is illegal to smoke in businesses, public parks, and on the Pedestrian Mall near the playground equipment. Iowa City police Sgt. Denise Brotherton said when she sees people smoking, she asks them to move.

She thinks the law has been successful because of increased peer pressure, she said.

“I’ve noticed a change,” she said. “Many citizens are taking a stand without having to get law enforcement involved.”

Brotherton said she was unaware of anyone receiving a ticket for violating the state law.
Though there is no final date for the educational period, police officers will ticket repeat offenders, Brotherton said.

In the meantime, the ban may not deter some from smoking.

“People will do what they want to do,” Kelley said.


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