Tobacco ban on ga campuses
by Bradley Hartsell
The University System of Georgia’s Board of Regents has voted unanimously to ban all tobacco use on public college campuses beginning Oct. 1.
Under the ban approved at the Regents’ meeting March 18, all forms of tobacco including smokeless tobacco – and electronic cigarettes – will be prohibited on campus property. The new ruling applies to students, faculty and visitors on campuses, including parking lots and off-site locations.
The restriction only applies to schools under the Board of Regents, meaning West Georgia Technical College is not subject to the tobacco ban, but the Carrollton-based University of West Georgia is. UWG officials declined to comment on the prohibition that will be effective on campus in just over six months.
Ashley Copeland, editor-in-chief of UWG’s school newspaper, “The West Georgian,” commented on how the tobacco restriction would affect campus life. According to Copeland, student and faculty response regarding the ban has been quiet.
“There hasn’t been much buzz about it,” she said. “As a student, I don’t think [the ban] is going to affect us much. I think campus life will look the same as it does now.”
Copeland says smoking, specifically, is not a big issue on campus. While she does see students and faculty smoking on campus, she says smokers are mindful about where they smoke, as to not impose on those passing by.
“People keep their distance and smoke,” she said.
Copeland says that, as a whole, she expects little impact on the campus, though she admits tobacco users may have a difficult time adjusting.
“Ban or no ban, I don’t see it changing the culture of the students here. It just depends on the student,” said Copeland. “I’m sure the smokers will be not be happy.”
Enforcement of the ban has been delegated from the Board of Regents to each individual school.
According to the vice president-elect of UWG’s student government, Ethan Brown, university administrators and the Student Government Association, among other campus leaders, will convene before Oct. 1 to discuss enforcement policies and penalties.
About a dozen colleges and universities already ban smoking, including the University of North Georgia, which went tobacco-free in 2007. Dr. Janet Marling, vice president of student affairs at University of North Georgia, notes through designated tobacco areas and non-residential campuses relegating tobacco use to personal vehicles, even they have not been completely tobacco free. Under the statewide ban, their campus also has to stiffen their policy.
Marling believes the tobacco policies of UNG have been positive for the campus. She believes other schools will be able to make the transition.
“I think anytime there’s a culture shift, things are difficult. Change is hard,” she said. “We’ve realized for a long time the importance of a healthy lifestyle and, as a result, we don’t see a lot of smoking on our campus.”
“It’ll definitely be a shift, but it’s a policy that will help us further align with our educational goals and providing a well, healthy environment to work and study in,” she added.
Marling hasn’t seen much of the possible negative effects of the ban, such as students skipping classes more often, but admits the possibility exists.
“We haven’t, because we have designated areas,” Marling said. “That could potentially come in the future, when we go completely smoke-free. Hopefully, it won’t affect attendance in class.”
To this point, UNG’s enforcement of its tobacco policy has been education-based, not penalty-based. Marling hopes other campuses will take a similar approach.
“We hope to bring in an educational program to help kick addictions,” she explained of the goal of the ban. “The focus is not going to be making this be a strict penalty. At the same time, it’s still breaking our student code. The goal is really and truly to get people who smoke healthy, rather than to write tickets, or make them take punitive classes .”
The ban, according to Marion Fedrick of the Board of Regents, will save the state money. The University System of Georgia spends approximately $2.4 million each year due to insurance claims stemmed from tobacco use.
“We’re spending a lot of money on a relatively small population,” she said.
As the policy is implemented, the system will help students and workers who want to quit, including nicotine-replacement therapy, online tools and connections to a state Department of Public Health Quit Line.