The Georgia Board of Regents has approved a sweeping measure to ban all forms of smoking — including tobacco-free e-cigarettes — on public campuses across the state. The ban was agreed upon last week after little debate, according to news sources.
Members of the Board of Regents acknowledged that the ban aims to force students to make better choices.
“I personally feel a great responsibility to protect our students from their own devices,” Regent Philip Wilheit told the Chattanooga Times Free Press.
“This is about behavior modification,” Regent Larry Ellis told the Athens Banner-Herald. “That’s what we’re all about in higher education.”
Once the ban takes effect on Oct. 1, the 33 campuses in the University System of Georgia will join more than 800 public and private colleges and universities nationwide that are completely tobacco-free.
Georgia’s Tobacco and Smoke-Free Campus Policy encompasses both traditional and non-traditional forms of smoking: cigarettes, pipes and cigars are forbidden, as are smokeless chewing tobacco and e-cigarettes, which contain nicotine but no tobacco.
The ban will be effective “24 hours a day, seven days a week,” including during sporting events, according to a Board of Regents statement.
The ban has been promoted as a public health benefit. Smokers cost the university system $2.4 million in health insurance claims, USG vice chancellor for human resources Marion Fedrick told the Athens Banner-Herald.
Yet the policy may make it harder for some smokers to kick the habit.
E-cigarettes, which are banned under the new policy, can help users quit smoking. A 2013 study in the peer-reviewed medical journal The Lancet, for example, found that e-cigarettes are as effective as nicotine patches in helping smokers kick the habit.
A Board of Regents press release states smokers can request “information on tobacco cessation” to help them quit.
The new policy will be enforced at the discretion of each institution’s president. It will be included in human resources policies and student conduct codes.
Some schools already enforce total or partial smoking bans. The University of Georgia, for instance, bans smoking within 35 feet of buildings and air intake units.
“The enforcement at UGA will be similar to the current policy,” UGA vice president of public affairs Tom Jackson told The College Fix. “Community members may ask those who are smoking in violation of the policy to stop. If they are uncooperative, there are administrative policies available through which they may file a complaint.”
At least for now, not all vices are treated equally on campus. Some schools, including the University of Georgia, permit open containers of alcohol on campus.
College Fix contributor Blake Seitz is a student at the University of Georgia.
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