When Maiah Duckstein graduated from the University of Central Florida two years ago, she thought she failed to accomplish one of her goals – well, until recently.

The Pembroke Pines woman, who was an intern at the American Lung Association her senior year, is credited by campus Health Services for starting the movement to create a smoke-free UCF campus.

She said she was pleased to receive a call this summer that UCF would be joining more than 700 other university and college campuses around the country with similar tobacco policies.

The UCF policy began Aug. 20, the first day of the fall semester, and applies to employees, students, visitors, vendors and others while on university-owned or leased properties. (For details about the policy, smoking-cessation classes and other information, go to https://www.ucf.edu/smokefree.)

“A few of my friends have lung-related disease. There were ashtrays by all the building doors, and they had to walk through all that smoke to go to class,” said Duckstein, who plans to enter law school soon. “I just wanted to promote a community of wellness.”

Duckstein first approached Al Harms, UCF’s Vice President of Strategy, Marketing, Communications & Admissions, about establishing a university smoke-free policy.

Harms presented the student’s concerns to other administrators, and then President John C. Hitt last October laid the groundwork for the new policy to take effect by this term.

“Initiation of the campus-wide smoke-free policy demonstrates that UCF recognizes tobacco as a class A carcinogen.  There is no safe level of exposure,” said Dr. Michael Deichen, director of UCF Health Services. “Tobacco is a carcinogen whether you smoke a cigarette or inhale secondhand smoke from a nearby smoker.  An estimated 35,000 Americans die prematurely each year from secondhand smoke.”

C.C. Cochrane, who graduated from UCF this summer, can testify to that.

The nonsmoker from Orlando said she was diagnosed last year with lung cancer, just like the late Dana Reeve, another nonsmoker and widow of Superman actor Christopher Reeve.

“Nonsmokers get lung cancer, too. So if people can’t stop smoking, they should think about the people around them who don’t smoke. Especially if they care for those friends or family,” said Cochrane, who was treated with an experimental medication that she said put her cancer in remission.

Cochrane, event manager at the Orange County Convention Center, praised UCF for implementing the policy and offering stop-smoking classes and nicotine-replacement therapies.

“You can’t preach to people, but I want to educate them about the dangers of smoking,” she said.

Various groups around campus – such as the Faculty Senate, USPS Staff Council, Student Government Association, HR Liaison Network, Greek Council, Fraternity and Sorority Life – have endorsed the new policy.

The university hopes employees and students become ambassadors of the policy to set healthy examples for others to follow. Anyone aware of someone smoking is encouraged to politely explain the campus policy and ask the smoker to put out their cigarette.  

During this first year of implementation, efforts are focused on promoting the policy and increasing awareness about the harmful effects of smoking rather than handing out fines or punishments to smokers. The Health Services staff said the policy will be reviewed after a year, just like other new policies that are put into place.