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FHSU to enforce campus-wide tobacco ban

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For those who smoke, there will no longer be a designated area to light up a cigarette on the Fort Hays State University campus starting July 2016.

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For those who smoke, there will no longer be a designated area to light up a cigarette on the Fort Hays State University campus starting July 2016.

Actually, all forms of tobacco, whether smoked or smokeless, will officially be prohibited under the upcoming policy. That includes e-cigarettes and vaping devices.

The new policy was officially announced last week after FHSU’s Tobacco Policy Task Force recommended the entire campus go tobacco free.

“2005 is when we first started really looking at it, and in 2012, we went to our current tobacco policy,” said FHSU Drug and Alcohol Wellness Network coordinator and Tobacco Policy Committee member Bob Duffy.

The current policy allows students, faculty and staff to smoke or use tobacco products in designated parking lots, according to Duffy.

“We’re finding it’s not very enforceable, and it’s kind of confusing,” he said of the policy.

“(The products) are all addictive. They cause health problems. They cause environmental issues,” he said. “So, we started looking at changing the current policy last year.”

Committee members decided they needed to clearly define what products weren’t allowed, create a campus-wide ban — which includes external properties — and implement the new rules slowly.

“We want to make it more than just about health issues,” Duffy said. “We did a deep investigation into the environmental impacts and the social justice aspects. It was really eye-opening for me.”

Before recommending the ban, the Tobacco Policy Task Force conducted a campus-wide survey that focused on a variety of points.

According to survey results, 24 percent of polled faculty, staff and students said they use tobacco-related products. Of that group, the majority smokes cigarettes daily.

When asked if the implementation of a tobacco-free policy would influence the decision of continuing to attend school or work at FHSU, 76 percent said it would have no effect, 16 percent said they would stay, and 8 percent said they would leave the campus.

An anonymous student identified as a tobacco user said, “If I am stressed after a test, I am going to have a cigarette once I get outside.”

Another student said, “I will smoke regardless of any policy change.”

“It is not the job of FHSU to regulate what people do and enjoy in their lives,” said an anonymous FHSU staff member. “We have enough oversight already.”

“Obviously, we had negative feedback there, but we also had positive feedback,” Duffy said. “We’ve received support from other offices around campus. It seems to be very positive so far.”

Many steps have to be taken and decisions made before the new policy takes full effect next summer.

“We’re looking into a lot of things right now,” Duffy said. “We want to implement this policy in a non-threatening way.”