Tobacco ban for Georgia campuses
4/11/2014, 6:12 a.m.
The Board of Regents has approved a tobacco ban for all campuses in the University System of Georgia, effective Oct. 1.
The board, which is the body governing the 31 colleges and universities in the Georgia system, joins hundreds of colleges across the nation with tobacco bans.
The ban, which was unanimously approved at a March 18 meeting, covers all tobacco products, including e-cigarettes and smokeless tobacco, on any property owned, leased or operated by the University System, including outdoor areas and parking lots.
Dr. Jean O’Connor, director of health promotion and disease prevention for the Georgia Department of Public Health, praised the board’s leadership on the issue.
“Tobacco-free environments are one of the best ways to help smokers quit and protect everyone from the dangers of tobacco,” O’Connor said in a March 24 statement. “The Department of Public Health applauds their courage to protect the health of Georgia’s best and brightest.”
Of the 1.5 million Georgia adults who smoke, cigarette use is highest among college-age adults, according to DPH data.
In 2011, 25 percent of Georgians ages 18-24 reported using cigarettes. This age group also reports the highest use of smokeless tobacco in the state.
Phillip Williams, dean of the University of Georgia’s College of Public Health and vice chair of DPH’s Board of Public Health, said the Board of Regents’ tobacco ban is a key tactic in decreasing those smoking rates.
“Tobacco use often peaks in between 18-22 years of age, so campus tobacco bans are a good way of encouraging young people, at such a crucial time, to lead healthier, tobacco-free lives,” he said.
Health officials in the state hope that the new policy will encourage smokers of all ages to quit. DPH operates the Georgia Tobacco Quit Line – 1-877-270-7867 – for any Georgian age 13 and older who is ready to kick their tobacco habit.
But Kenneth Ray, program manager for the Georgia Tobacco Use Prevention Program at DPH, said the policy also is designed to protect people from secondhand smoke, which kills about 1,400 adult nonsmokers in Georgia every year.
“The adoption of the model tobacco-free campus policy will assure that students, staff and visitors are breathing clean air and are enjoying the educational experience,” Ray said.
About 1,200 colleges and universities across the United States have made their campuses tobacco-free with similar policies, including Emory University in Atlanta, which began enforcing its policy on campus in 2012.
To help other schools that are putting a tobacco-free policy in place, DPH has published a tool kit to guide campus leaders through adopting, implementing and enforcing tobacco bans.
The tool kit can be found at http://dph.georgia.gov – search for Georgia Tobacco-Free Colleges & Universities Tool Kit.
By offering a step-by-step approach to putting the policy in place, Ray said schools can get the support they need for their tobacco bans to succeed.
“Without clear guidelines for implementation and enforcement, protection from the dangers of exposure to secondhand smoke is likely not possible,” he said.
Ray noted that tobacco-free policies on college campuses expand the protection afforded by the tobacco-free policies that are in place at 97 of Georgia’s 181 public school districts.
“Youth from primary and secondary schools in Georgia that are tobacco-free can now attend Georgia state-funded universities that are tobacco-free and provide the same protection,” Ray said.