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University's tobacco ban expanded

By Elizabeth Saulsbury
On February 2, 2014

East Tennessee State University's no-smoking policy now prohibits the use of any form of tobacco, any other substances that are lit and smoked, and the use of electronic cigarettes or similar devices which simulate smoking.
"Until fall 2013, the ETSU tobacco-free policy was plagued by non-compliance and inadequate enforcement," said Hadii Mamudu, assistant professor of public health and a member of ETSU's Tobacco Policy Research Program Project Team. "Therefore, to ensure smooth implementation of the policy and to pre-empt problems in dealing with the use of other tobacco products and [e-cigarettes] in the future, it became prudent to expand the policy to include all smoked, smokeless and lit tobacco products."
Tobacco-free policies, like ETSU's, are not unusual for other college and university campuses. Many schools are striving to establish and enforce smoking bans.
"The current trend to address tobacco use on campuses is to target devices for delivering nicotine, one of the most addictive drugs," Mamudu said. "While the ETSU Tobacco Free policy facilitates smooth implementation, it is in line with emerging innovative policies to address tobacco use among college students on campuses."
Electronic cigarettes and similar products were included in the updated policy for a number of reasons, including to ensure effective enforcement of the smoking ban and for health and environmental reasons.
"The ETSU Tobacco-Free Campus policy took effect before e-cigarettes were popular or had widespread usage," said Jeff Howard, associate dean of students.
The rising popularity of e-cigarettes has made the university's tobacco policy harder to enforce.
"The attempt to implement the policy was severely undermined by the use of e-cigarettes," Mamudu said. "In other words, implementation of the tobacco-free policy became messy with the use of e-cigarettes on campus."
Mamudu also said that university tobacco bans have environmental ramifications, as they reduce the amount of cigarette butts and other waste products produced through tobacco use.
"First, a ban of tobacco use on campus protects nonsmokers from exposure to toxic chemicals and carcinogens in secondhand smoke," Mamudu said. "Second, a ban of tobacco use on campus has enormous health benefits by motivating tobacco users to quit and preventing initiation. The scientific evidence is very clear that smoke-free environments are major predictors of tobacco-use cessation."
Howard said that the university has established a process for dealing with tobacco policy violations.
"Smoking and all other tobacco usage is permitted only inside personal vehicles," Howard said. "Violations will be forwarded to Human Resources for employee incidents or Student Affairs for student incidents. The individual department will handle the progressive discipline for repeat violations."
Though ETSU students, faculty and staff members who smoke may see the policy as a hindrance, Mamudu said that it is in place to ensure the health and safety of the ETSU community.
"An ETSU student with a pre-existing respiratory condition had to be rushed to the emergency room in fall 2013 from being exposed to the smoke of people unlawfully smoking in front of the only entrance for people of disability to enter Rogers-Stout Hall," Mamudu said.
"So, while people may contend that they have the right to smoke, which we do accept, the indisputable fact is that smoking on campus puts the majority of the university community at risk."

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