Beaumont native pushes through policy banning smoking at SFA

Jessica Taylor

The Stephen F. Austin University campus is now smoke-free, thanks to a student and faculty-led joint resolution under Beaumont native Jessica Taylor's leadership. Taylor is the current SFA Student Government Association president.

The tobacco and vape policy, which bans vaping and chewing tobacco as well as smoking, went into effect Aug. 22, 2016 during the beginning of Taylor’s presidency, the Pine Log, SFA’s student newspaper reported. The initiative, supported almost unanimously by the Student Government Association, was led by the author Senator Bohannon, who is now an SFA graduate,Taylor said. 

Taylor told the Pine Log that she voted for the new resolution because “the [previous] 20-foot rule [you must be at least 20 feet away from a building to use tobacco] was not being followed around dorms, the student center and other areas around campus. The fact is that smoke affects the health of everyone in the vicinity, not just the individual who is smoking. Ultimately, we wanted to make SFA a healthier place.”

Anyone on campus is not allowed to use these products on “any university property,” according to Taylor, including sidewalks bordering campus and inside vehicles parked on campus.

The resolution states that the new policy affects “property that is owned, leased, occupied, or controlled by Stephen F. Austin State University,” meaning “all buildings, structures, vehicles, sidewalks, parking lots, walkways and attached parking structures owned or controlled by the university.”

“If smoke is allowed on campus, a faculty member is not able to do research on that topic,” Taylor explained in an interview with The Examiner. Now SFA is eligible to receive funds from the Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas, according to the policy.

The new resolution also “prohibits the use, sale or free sampling of tobacco or vape products on all university property,” Taylor wrote in an e-mail.

Banned products include but are not limited to cigarettes, cigars, pipes, smokeless tobacco, e-cigarettes, vaporizers, vape pens, hookahs, blunts, pipes, snuff and any other tobacco or vape related product, according to Taylor.

“All members of the university community are responsible for adherence to the tobacco-free campus policy,” Taylor wrote. “University community members are empowered to respectfully inform others about the policy.”

Taylor is a senior English major, with a minor in Sociology, and SFA student government association president for the 2016-17 academic year. Taylor attended high school in Beaumont, she explained, and graduated from Central Medical Magnet High School as part of the Medical Magnet program in 2013.

Throughout the fall semester, Taylor said she informally polled students. Most of the responses she received were “polar opposites — either they’re completely for it and happy with our campus being healthier or completely on the other side, like why would we change if it’s always been this way.”

SFA provided free Quit Kits with information and tools, available to students, faculty and staff, at several locations on campus during the transition, the Pine Log reported.

Taylor said that she feels that campus safety and health will improve overall, and encourages her fellow students to support the change.

“New things are a little harder to start, you can make the legislation for it, but it’s ultimately up to the students and faculty to lead the initiative and report it if they see anything that violates the tobacco free rule,” she said.

Taylor plans to attend graduate school, possibly at SFA, after her graduation in May, but does not plan to run for SGA presidency again next year. She has applied for the student affairs graduate program because she wants to continue to help university students, she said.

 “She started at Central High School doing these things and she went on,” said her mother, Rosalan Taylor. “She’s just a multitasker, she wears so many hats.” She is proud of her daughter’s achievements, noting that Jessica was an honors student in high school.

A similar smoke-free policy at Lamar University went into effect June 1, 2012, Lamar public relations specialist Brian Sattler said in a release, along with all the other institutions in the Texas State University System.