“It was so prominent that even I picked it up,” Webster Geneva student Yasmin Khan said.
After previous attempts to go smoke-free, Webster University Geneva restricted smoking on campus to designated smoking spots on Oct. 28. This change followed the Aug. 28, 2018 smoking ban by Webster’s St. Louis area campuses.
Peter Carson, a professor at Webster Geneva, said the process has been ongoing for years.
“I don’t even know the whole story to tell you the truth, but I do know that at least one attempt was made to go smoke-free,” Carson said.
According to Geneva student Yasmin Khan, many students will have to change their habits. Khan said she has struggled with smoking since she came to Webster.
“Many – and I mean many – students on our campus smoke,” Khan said “I remember when I first joined. In a group of 10 people, maybe eight would be regular smokers. It was so prominent that even I picked it up.”
Zain Abbas, a senior at the Geneva campus, smokes regularly. He said smoking is not uncommon in Switzerland.
According to Switzerland’s Federal Office of Public Health, 31.7% of people aged 15-24 smoke cigarettes. In America, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported at least 2,082 colleges are smoke-free as of Nov. 2017.
“It was kind of weird to implement such rules on a campus situated in a country where you are allowed to smoke anywhere you want with no restrictions,” Abbas said. “Of course, people are not happy with this decision, and with the new rules, they have to cross the entire university to be able to smoke.”
Despite despite their own smoking habits, Abbas and Khan both support the change Geneva has made. They said they hope the restriction will put an end to cigarette butt litter, something they said they often see on campus.
“We are lucky to be in a beautiful natural spot of Geneva, with a little forest and river nearby,” Khan said.
She said when she used to go for walks, the area would be covered with cigarettes despite nearby ashtrays.
Since the change has been made, both students have noticed a difference in the appearance of the campus.
“It’s a much cleaner campus now, it’s more welcoming and it gives a positive first impression,” Abbas said. “It also makes the non-smokers feel more respected.”
Despite this, the reception from Webster Geneva students has been mainly negative, according to Abbas.
“Everyone complains about it on a daily basis,” Abbas said. “No one is happy with this. But, some are cooperating at least a little but still not enough.”
Khan said it’s been an uphill battle that will end up being a positive change. Khan said there had been at least three attempts while she has been at the school. The difference this time is that the change was made with the Webster Geneva’s Ecological Association and the Sustainability Council.
“No one liked the idea of their freedom being stripped from them, and no one likes the idea of the university judging their lifestyle choices,” Khan said. “This time around, we are not passing judgment on people’s lifestyles, we are merely trying to create a campus environment that is respectful to all members of the community.”