Regents poised to ban smoking on all campuses

Final approval expected Wednesday

The state Board of Regents gave preliminary approval on Tuesday to a new policy banning tobacco use on the campuses of its 31 institutions.

Final approval is expected Wednesday.

The ban includes all forms of tobacco products including cigarettes, e-cigarettes and smokeless tobacco.

The ban would take effect Oct. 1 and cover all areas owned, leased or in any way used by the university system, including parking lots. It would also prohibit any tobacco advertising and would apply to all students, employees, faculty and staff, contractors and visitors.

Presidents of each institution would be responsible for enforcing the policy and determining exceptions. Violations could trigger corrective actions outlined in the student code of conduct or campus human resources policies. Visitors who refuse to comply may be asked to leave campus.

The policy grew out of plans by the university system to improve health policies and cut costs. The university system annually spends more than $2.4 million in tobacco related health care expenses, according to information released by the board of Regents Tuesday.

Twenty-six hundred system employees have self-identified as tobacco users. The number of student users is unknown.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that almost 19 percent of young adults ages 18-24 are likely to use tobacco. That would translate to about 60,000 Georgia university system students.

“But we hope those aren’t our numbers,” said Marion Fedrick, vice chancellor for human resources.

Once the ban is approved, Georgia’s system would follow the lead of 1,100 campuses nationwide that are tobacco free, according to a U.S. Department of Health and Human Services initiative launched in 2012.

Currently, 12 institutions in the university system have some sort of smoking or tobacco ban in place.