Campuswide tobacco ban approved
Published: Wednesday, June 13, 2012
Updated: Wednesday, June 13, 2012 00:06
The West Virginia University Board of Governors approved a policy banning tobacco use on campus for employees, students and visitors beginning July 1, 2013. The policy was adopted after a two-hour executive session during the BOG meeting in Charleston, W.Va.
The ban prohibits tobacco use on any premises owned, operated, leased or occupied by WVU. This includes any outdoor areas on campus, parking lots and previously designated smoking areas.
The ban also guarantees the availability of cessation programs, which will give students and faculty the resources needed to overcome tobacco addiction.
Discussions about a tobacco ban have taken place on campus for several years. WVU president James P. Clements believes interest in an official ban was motivated by these grassroots discussions.
"This is something that bubbled up from students, faculty and staff," he said. "If we have a responsibility in terms of public health, I think the board made a good decision."
In response to overwhelming input from students, professors and staff, the University formed a task force of three students, three faculty members and three staff to explore the feasibility of a tobacco policy.
Over several months, this task force reviewed similar policies at other universities, held forums to gauge public opinion, consistently published updates and recommended the policy that was submitted to the BOG.
The entire process took more than a year, Clements said.
"The reality is, this is a complex discussion," Clements said. "It was good to have the task force to collect input and everyone got to speak their mind. That’s a good thing, even if it took a little bit longer."
Some on-campus organizations have supported a smoking ban for years. The Tobacco Free Mountaineers, an anti-tobacco student organization, has held public forums advocating a smoking ban.
"The primary concern of a tobacco-free policy is the overall health and ethical behavior of the institution," said Alyssa Iannamorelli, president of TFM, in a letter to the editor published in the Daily Athenaeum in March.
Clements shares the same perspective.
"We have a responsibility to lead the state about being healthy," he said. "This ban certainly fits a healthy lifestyle."
The policy states that signs will be posted marking non-smoking areas, and any students who violate the policy are subject to "disciplinary sanctions, up to and including expulsion."
Employees who violate the policy will similarly be subject to disciplinary action or termination. Other individuals found smoking on campus "may be removed."
However, similar bans, such as the tobacco ban at the University of Kentucky, have required little to no enforcement, according to Ellen Hahn, director of UK’s Tobacco Policy Research Program.
Clements stressed that the ban is about maintaining a healthy campus said he was inspired by the students.
"I’m not saying people can’t smoke, I’m just saying they can’t smoke on campus. I don’t want to take away their personal rights," he said. "But we want this to be a healthy campus, and from a grassroots effort, a majority of people came out and said ‘please pass this policy.’"
The BOG Policy states that exceptions to the ban can be made for events that attract large amounts of off campus visitors, such as athletic events or concerts.
The policy was open for comment by the public before approval. A majority of the responses were in favor of the ban – almost two to one.
Tami Nicole Hall, a WVU student and a smoker, said in her comment that smoking releases stress and banning that escape could cause problems.
"We are already confined to where we can smoke, and I think keeping certain places open for smoking is a much better plan," she said.
However, she does agree that lack of regulation can lead to conflict.
"I have seen very disrespectful motions from smokers to others. Some kind of regulation is necessary," she said.
Tysheiana Velez Marquez voiced her concerns about how long it took the University to adopt a non-smoking policy.
"Why do I have to suffer for [smoker’s] choice of wanting to follow a ridiculous drug?" she said.
Marquez is allergic to cigarette smoke, and said she has suffered her time at WVU.
"I love WVU’s quality of education but have been very disappointed with the quality of life," she said. "I am truly disappointed it took the school this long to try and enforce such an important policy."
The ban does not extend to WVU’s divisional campuses, but the president has the authority to eventually expand it to these campuses.
A similar policy has already been implemented on the WVU Health Sciences Campus.
A section in the policy supports the use of tobacco cessation programs to help University employees quit smoking. Employees may be eligible to participate in programs for free, and students are eligible to utilize all cessation programs through WELLWVU.