published Thursday, March 20th, 2014

Tobacco banned on Georgia college campuses

The Georgia Board of Regents that governs 31 colleges and universities in the University System of Georgia voted Wednesday to ban all forms of tobacco on all of its campuses.

Dalton State University in Whitfield, Ga., and the University of Georgia -- the state's flagship university -- are among those that will be affected, although they and many other system schools already maintain policies restricting tobacco use on campus in various ways.

A smoking hut near the residential property leased by Dalton State is currently the only place smoking is permitted on the campus, but the new blanket policy extends even to property leased or rented by USG institutions.

The ban, which goes into effect Oct. 1, will be enforced 24 hours a day, seven days a week and extend to events hosted by USG-entities, including athletic events.

Any exceptions to the rule will be determined by the presidents of individual institutions, a news release stated.

"Our aim with this policy is to preserve and improve the health, comfort and environment of employees and any persons occupying USG facilities, " Marion Fedrick, the USG vice chancellor for human resources said in the release.

In Tennessee, similar governing bodies maintain loose rules and leave potential bans up to individual campuses. The blanket UT system policy prohibits smoking within 25 feet of doorways and windows.

The Tennessee Board of Regents simply complies with state law by banning smoking in all buildings it owns or operates, but East Tennessee State and Tennessee Tech have banned tobacco and MTSU adopted a policy that prohibits it except for in personal vehicles.

Worldwide, tobacco use causes more than five million deaths per year, according to the CDC.

"The University System recognizes these serious health implications and feels it's our responsibility to promote the health and well-being of our students, faculty staff and visitors," Fedrick said.

A database updated Jan. 2 by the advocacy group Americans for Nonsmokers' Rights shows that 1,182 college campuses have banned smoking nationwide and that 811 are tobacco-free.

Cynthia Hallett, the group's executive director, said a ban affecting multiple institutions like the one passed in Georgia is significant, especially in the South, and an indicator of a continued cultural shift.

"It's a really smart campus health effort," Hallett said. "It protects students and anyone visiting those campuses ... and I think it reflects a change in social norms"

Contact staff writer David Cobb at dcobb@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6731.

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