University of Georgia Works to Ban Smoking… and E-Cigarettes
The University of Georgia is best known for its high graduation rate, low student loan debt, and abundant financial aid opportunities. Kiplinger ranked UGA as the #10 University for the best value among public colleges. Students gain not only an education, but also practical experience in leadership initiatives that could potentially change the world. Surprisingly, UGA is the only educational institute in Athens to still allow open smoking on campus. However, that is about to change.
This week, the Georgia state Board of Regents will discuss a brand new smoking prohibition that would ban tobacco use across all state colleges and universities. If the new “Tobacco and Smoke-Free Campus Policy” is passed, smoking will no longer be allowed at UGA or on any public college campus in Georgia. The initiative would directly impact 30 colleges and universities, representing the fourth-largest university network in the United States.
While few would argue against a regular smoking ban, this new policy would also prohibit cigars, pipes, smokeless tobacco, hookahs, clove cigarettes, and potentially tobacco-free electronic cigarettes. These products would not longer be allowed anywhere on public university property, including all the housing complexes, vehicles, and parking lots.
That means students could not even sit in their cars and puff on an electronic cigarette. Forget walking to a designated smoking area in a parking lot far from public foot traffic. Whether you are a faculty member or student, you will simply have to deal with the nicotine cravings until you are off university property. If you live on land leased by the university, you will not even be allowed to use cigarettes or e-cigs at home. Even visitors at sporting events and contractors working on campus property would be subject to the ban.
The new prohibition isn’t really surprising considering Georgia’s war on public tobacco use since 2003. Gainesville State College banned cigarettes a decade ago and soon after the satellite campus in Watkinsville also adopted a tobacco ban. In 2007, Piedmont College made a new policy prohibiting tobacco use and Athens Technical College instigated their tobacco ban in 2009. It’s currently illegal to light up in most public libraries and hospitals in Georgia and if you are within the Clarke County School District, you cannot use or even possess tobacco products on school property. Just having a pack of cigarettes in your purse is reason for disciplinary action in Clarke County schools.
In the past, UGA has hesitated to implement a strict smoking ban. In 2011, school officials made a rule that prohibited smoking within 35 feet of any building entrance. However, students could still use tobacco or e-cigarettes in other areas on campus. The UGA Athletic Association has already banned smoking at the athletic facilities, but the new policy would offer a final death nail for tobacco users on campus.
It’s highly unfortunate that this ban could potentially include electronic cigarettes, as these smoke-free devices are actually a good alternative for students and faculty that hope to stop using tobacco completely. By banning e-cigs along with tobacco cigarettes, UGA could be making a tragic mistake for the health of their students.
Do you think smoking should be banned on college campuses? Should e-cig use be included in these bans?