Georgia Southern University will be tobacco free starting Friday, in accordance with a new policy by the University System of Georgia’s Board of Regents.
The board’s policy calls for colleges and universities within the system to be tobacco free by Oct. 1. Georgia Southern elected to adopt the policy on August 1, two months ahead of the regents' deadline.
The ban will extend to all locations affiliated with Georgia Southern, including Paulson Stadium and grounds, the golf course and any satellite locations, said Paige Fluker, the university’s assistant director of communication said.
According to a news release from University President Dr. Brooks Keel, the ban defines tobacco products as “cigars, cigarettes, pipes, hookahs, all forms of smokeless tobacco, clove cigarettes, and other smoking devices such as vapor and electronic cigarettes.”
Kerry Greenstein, the associate dean of students, said students have been informed about the change starting this summer with new students at all SOAR sessions.
“For returning students, the hope is that partly they know and hear about it through these other means,” Greenstein said. “We will be doing email communications and, of course, it’s up on the website (georgiasouthern.edu). So our hope is students are seeing it through other means to know, but because we started some of the conversations at the end of spring before students left, we think word started to spread. ”
Posted signs, along with the removal of the smoking bins throughout campus, will be part of the promotion of the ban on campus, Greenstein said. These steps will be done this week in preparation for the upcoming fall semester.
The ban will be enforced at locations such as the dorms through consequences the Dean of Students’ office is creating. The other locations are going to “hard” to monitor, Greenstein acknowledged.
“I think our hope is that the community will speak up for itself,” she said. “And so those who don’t want to be around the smoke will say to others, ‘Hey, this is a smoke-free campus or tobacco-free campus, would you mind following that policy?’ Because there’s no way the few of us can do it. So we are hoping that everyone pitches in to support the effort and encourages others to just not smoke while on campus.”
Lawson Rushing, a rising junior, is a tobacco product user who is looking at the ban as a positive for the campus.
“I am one of the few who is a tobacco user but is OK with a lot of this happening,” Rushing said. “Because I agree that the fact that it’s not everybody’s choice to smoke is a big factor in the decision.”
Shawn Kuykendall, another tobacco product user, agrees. The campus and other locations are Georgia Southern property, and the university can do what it wants to, Kuykendall said.
Rising junior Courtney Sylvester is a nonsmoker who says she is “all for it” when the ban begins.
“I have friends that smoke and I am OK with their choices, but the smoke never just stays there. It usually hits me, or you can’t control where the wind takes it,” Sylvester said. “I think it’s a distraction. I would never be one to take away (from) someone else, but I can’t control it. I’m not a smoker, so I don’t want to breathe it.”
Georgia Southern students Adrianna Potts and Na Na Dawda are public health majors who think the ban will be an improvement when they are walking on campus.
“It’s really rude for someone to be smoking walking past me, and I may be asthmatic or I have bronchitis or something,” Potts said. “Those are things you should do at your home.”
Dawda agrees but said there could have been alternative solutions.
“I feel like they should ban it, but if people would stay in the designated spot, they wouldn’t have to ban it,” she said. “’Cause like I don’t want to smell your smoke, but if you would stay where you’re supposed to smoke at then I wouldn’t mind. I wouldn’t have to walk past you.”
Sylvester said the ban may have some issues at first with enforcing no smoking or use of other tobacco products. She has better hopes for Georgia Southern University.
“I’ve heard jokes that it’s never going to stand,” she said. “But I’ve lived on a military base and I never had an issue with it, so I do think people can follow the rules. We’re college students. Hopefully we’re not all wanting to be rebellious.”
Tyson Davis, a multimedia instructor, said the ban was a bit “harsh” with the elimination of tobacco products on campuses all over Georgia.
“I don’t smoke anymore, but I don’t particularly have a problem with people smoking on campus,” Davis said. “And if I’m being honest, there are people who I love dearly who I work with who if they could not smoke, I probably would not want to work with them.”
Davis also said that there should be designated smoking areas on campus.
“I also think it’s absolutely ridiculous that they are also saying that electronic cigarettes can’t be used on campus,” Davis said. “They’re not even giving people an option.”
Not the first
Georgia Southern University is not the only university in the region that has seen a ban on tobacco products.
Armstrong State University has been a tobacco- and smoke-free campus since August 2012.
Sara Plashpol, the coordinator of the university’s Master of Public Health Program, became involved after University President Linda M. Bleicken contacted Plashpol, who had knowledge about tobacco policy for colleges.
“At Armstrong several years ago, we had several different areas that developed an interest in seeing the college implement some type of tobacco-control policy,” Plashpol said. “One was Student Government Association, so within the SGA there were talks about it, support for it.”
Along with the SGA, several other campus organizations and different departments support this tobacco control idea, Plashpol said.
A group consisting of students, staff, and even community members conducted research and surveys to get public opinion on what they would like to see done on campus.
After getting the group’s research, Bleicken made the decision to go tobacco free in February 2012 with the ban beginning Aug. 1, 2012.
“It was interesting. Right when she made her first announced her decision I started noticing, I think that a lot of people thought the policy had already been put in place then,” Plashpol said. “Because before that was announced, walking into some of the buildings I know the building with my office was located there would be just a big group of smokers just outside. There was always a cloud of smoke you had to walk through, and that kind of stopped. It became much less visible even before the policy was implemented.”
Armstrong student Jordan Faddis said some people still do not follow the ban.
“While Armstrong is a tobacco-free campus, you can see groups of people smoking constantly,” Faddis said. “Sometimes they don’t even try to hide it.”