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Tobacco-free policy makes progress

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TobaccoGraphicA proposed tobacco-free policy has been finalized and is now being circulated throughout SLU’s governing bodies. Should it be adopted, the policy would prohibit all tobacco use on university property. Faculty Senate voted to approve the policy earlier in the week, while the Staff Advisory Committee and Student Government Association have yet to set dates for a vote.

Last revised on Feb. 24, the ban would include the use, distribution or sale of tobacco of any kind. It states that the prohibition would apply to all campuses, areas within 25 feet of entryways to SLU buildings, on and off-campus housing managed by the university and parking facilities and lots, which would also prohibit smoking inside personal vehicles. Chewing tobacco and smokeless tobacco products such as e-cigarettes are included in the definition of tobacco.

According to Edwin Trevathan, the Dean of the College of Public Health and Social Justice (PHSJ) and one of the leading figures in the initiative, the proposal was first composed by senior faculty members in PHSJ. Subsequent drafts were prepared primarily by faculty from College of Public Health and Social Justice, the School of Medicine and Nancey Delaney, a physician in Student Health.

Free and reduced-cost tobacco-cessation programs offered through SLU and outside organizations are recommended as a tool for members of the community who wish to quit smoking, and the proposal says a summary of programs will be made available online. Methods by which the university might implement and enforce the policy are not included explicitly, though the document cites data which suggests there is a reduction in tobacco use and in involuntary exposure to tobacco smoke over time, regardless of the method of enforcement.

“It is important that the university community, especially student leaders, faculty and staff leaders promote good health and support an environment free of tobacco,” the proposal states. “The SLU administration, with input and recommendations from the Faculty Senate, the Student Government Association and the Staff Advisory Committee (SAC) will develop plans for implementation and enforcement of the tobacco-free policy.”

“There are many different approaches taken by universities that are outlined in detail on the [Tobacco Free Campus] website.  Some campuses issue tickets and charge fines to those who violate policy, while some universities take a more passive approach,” Trevathan said.

An article prepared by the National Center for Tobacco Policy and Tobacco Free College Campus Initiative outlines strategies for enforcement of such a policy utilized by campuses that are already tobacco free, which include developing a plan describing the method by which compliance will be achieved and measured, training personnel responsible for working with students on how to educate them about the policy prior to adoption and posting prominent signage before and after implementation.

The proposal lists Washington University in St. Louis, University of Missouri – St. Louis and campuses of St. Louis Community College as local universities with policies already in place. The draft being considered closely mimics Washington University’s policy, which states, “violations of this policy may result in disciplinary action.” UMSL’s policy does not provide consequences for non-compliance. Additionally, smoking in personal vehicles is permitted in UMSL’s tobacco-free strategy. Violation of the St. Louis Community College policy may result in a $15 fine and holds for students and “disciplinary action up to termination of employment” according to the “Tobacco Free for You and Me” web page.

According to Trevathan, Faculty Senate has already voted to approve the finalized proposal. The Staff Advisory Committee does not currently have a vote planned, but SAC Chair Kathy Barbeau stated that she has asked those leading the initiative to provide the staff with an update during their April 17 meeting. SGA has yet to hold a vote, and any action will require a senator to bring a resolution to the floor.

The proposal includes two pages of background information, which cites national data concerning tobacco use and the effectiveness of tobacco related policies at other universities. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that over 480,000 people in the United States die annually from illness related to tobacco use. A 2014 report from the American Nonsmokers’ Rights Foundation states that of the roughly 4,140 American college campuses, 1,179 have enacted 100 percent smoke-free policies, while 808 of those have enacted 100 percent tobacco-free policies, though not all policies were necessarily in effect at the time.

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