The Board of Regents of the University System of Georgia did not vote on the “Tobacco and Smoke-Free Campus Policy” at its monthly meeting Wednesday.
For now, the future of a smoke-free campus at UGA is still undecided.
“The board and committee discussed that today — that will sit on the table for 30 days,” said John Millsaps, associate vice chancellor for media and publications for the Board of Regents. “The tentative plans for that policy and whatever will be final to come back before the board for potential action and vote in February.”
If passed, the policy would ban all on-campus tobacco smoking, with the addition of electronic cigarettes, to more than 30 public colleges and universities in Georgia.
If the policy should not pass, students such as Abbey Meller would still advocate for the policy at the University of Georgia.
“I would like to work to have smokers and nonsmokers come to some agreement if a complete smoking ban isn’t in the cards right now,” she said.
As senator for the School of Public Health in the UGA Student Government Association, Meller said her focus is the “health of all students.”
“I don’t necessarily support limiting anyone’s rights, but I think the focus and importance of this issue is making UGA’s campus a happy and safe place for all people — nonsmokers and smokers alike,” she said.
Numerous schools in the state allow smoking on campus, but some have made efforts to restrict smoking areas similar to UGA’s limitations in 2011.
Georgia State University introduced on-campus smoking limitations in 1988, when no-smoking signs were placed around campus, according to Georgia State’s policy. No-smoking clinics were also established on campus in 1990, and the most recent limitations barred smoking “within a 25-foot radius of all University building entrances” in 2003, according to the policy.
But SGA Senator for the College of Family and Consumer Sciences Tyler Baker said the policy should be all or nothing.
“Originally, sort of my argument then was ‘let’s go all in and ban it completely or let’s not have any rules at all about it,’” he said. “I would certainly support a complete ban, as opposed to what we have right now — a hodgepodge of rules that can’t be enforced, so a complete ban is better than what we have now.”
Baker said he has no problem with smokers on campus — he embraces the rights of smokers. But policies not being properly enforced is a “disservice” to other students on campus, he said.
But the on-campus smoking ban is not completely dead for UGA, considering the steps Athens Technical College took to ban on-campus smoking in 2009.
“The students had made complaints about smoking on campus, and they wanted it addressed,” said Andrea Daniel, vice president for student affairs at ATC.
Similar to the issues at UGA, students at ATC showed concern for the by-product smoking on campus caused.
“It was the smoke and the health issues that often accompany smoking,” Daniel said. “We also had a good number of students who expressed they were allergic to smoke. They would have to walk by to get to a door, and that would cause problems for them with their breathing.”
ATC worked with other institutions to inform other students, faculty and staff on the potential change.
“We worked with Athens Regional [Medical Center] at the time and offered classes for students,” Daniel said. “We had students who helped and set up tables in the student center who would share information about the ban that would be implemented in 2009.”
Just as students helped in changing the policy, they serve a role in upholding it by assisting campus officials.
“We have security that helps us enforce the policy, and all people on campus — students, faculty and staff — can help do that,” Daniel said.
Meller said security officers on campus, excluding police, would be useful in enforcing this policy.
“I had an idea to contact the facilities manager at UGA to discuss the possibility of giving the security guards for various buildings the right to issue some sort of citation — possibly with a small fee or maybe a warning,” she said.
There is no police involvement with fines served to students who are caught smoking, but ATC developed a method to dole out consequences.
“The first time a student is caught smoking on campus, we give them a warning, and their name and ID number is turned into my office,” Daniel said. “If they are caught again, there’s a $50 fine. If that happens again for the third time, they meet with me.”
Daniel said students can also be dismissed from the college on their third offense. She said she dealt with two cases of students who were caught smoking on campus for the third time, but she did not dismiss either student.
Without police involvement, Baker said the consequences would mirror other schools with non-smoking bans.
“We would just have to reference how it works on the other campuses,” Baker said. “I would hate to see people getting fined right off the bat, but I definitely think there will be a learning curve, too.”
The policy is also outlined in the orientation sessions before each semester at ATC.
“Every student is required to go to that orientation,” Daniel said.
The days following the change saw little negative feedback at ATC. Daniel said she saw the exact opposite.
“Our policy, while not every student has loved it, a number of students have embraced it,” she said. “We’ve received ‘thank you’ letters for having the policy. We also have students that are positive about the policy, with very few having a negative experience after implementing it.”