UTSA’s tobacco-free policy, which went into effect in 2014, prohibits the use of tobacco on the 725-acre property.
In what can only be described as an act of protest, large groups of students have begun gathering outside of the McKinney Humanities building, actively smoking and violating university policy. Two years later, these dedicated protesters continue their campaigns, publically smoking between classes.
Addicted to protesting, these non-vocal, protesters continue to down-play their demonstration by denying that they are in violation of UTSA’s policy.
“We are not protesting,” says protester and nicotine activist Winston Newport. “I just need a cigarette sometimes.”
While consistently asserting they are not protesting, the message is clear in their actions that these students want change to UTSA’s policy.
Smoking is a health choice, and the M.H. smokers want the university to know it cannot ban them from doing something they feel they are legally entitled to do. The students are dedicated to their cause, risking lasting effects on their health caused by smoking, and funding costly cigarettes to spread their peaceful anti-institutional message.
Counter-protesters such as professors or campus maintenance workers actively try to stop the smokers, occasionally approaching them with statements such as “please stop” or the more aggressive “You can’t do that here.” None of the counter measures have caused any change.
However, the years of protesting have affected some of the students, such as Marla Boro who says she has attempted to quit before. “I have been smoking (protesting) for years and have tried to kick the habit in the past. I usually go a few weeks without it (a protest), but I always end up going back to it.”
Protester Paul Mall argues that the biggest issue is the university’s lack of compromise. If a designated area for smokers was placed somewhere on campus, he believes the protest would end entirely.
“Sure, if there was a designated smoking area, we would go there, but people don’t seem to mind us here. We try not to bother other people.”
“For the most part, no one really cares,” continued the social-smoking rights advocate. “Campus police never tell us anything so, we feel fine.”
If you would like to join, the protest will continue Monday through Friday outside the M.H., usually between classes.
The protesting is most active during stressful test days, days when students have speeches and, at it’s heaviest, during finals week.
Protesters say they will continue to publically violate policy by smoking in the farthest, smallest corner of the campus outside the M.H., at least until a designated smoking spot is created or the police decide to politely approach them.