ST. GEORGE — The Dixie State University Board of Trustees Friday passed a campus-wide ban on all tobacco products, a policy that, according to the school’s release, is the culmination of a three-year, student-driven study, spearheaded by DSU nursing students and former Dixie State University Student Association health science program senators Joe Pate and James Seely.
The policy will prohibit the use of any and all forms of tobacco, including traditional cigarettes, electronic cigarettes and other vaporizing devices (including hookahs), water pipes, chewing tobacco, cigars, and the use of cloves. It covers all of the school’s indoor and outdoor areas including parking lots, and any vehicles owned by the school as well as any privately owned vehicles as long as they are on campus.
“We applaud the combined efforts of Joe (Pate) and Jimmy (Seely) throughout this entire student-run initiative,” DSU Dean of Students Del Beatty said. “The tobacco-free policy was created from input provided by every constituency on our campus. This policy will make Dixie State a cleaner and healthier environment for all who call our campus home.”
In the coming weeks, Dixie State will roll out a comprehensive campus marketing campaign, funded in part by the Southwest Utah Public Health Department, designed to educate students, faculty, staff and campus visitors about the new policy and to promote educational and cessation assistance programs.
This is not an attempt to legislate morality, Jordan Mathis, Director of Health at the Southwest Utah Public Health Department said. Mathis along with other staff from the health department worked closely with DSU leaders specifically on the research side of this new tobacco-free policy.
“There’s strong empirical research that shows that (a controlled campus) decreases tobacco use,” Mathis said, “and changes social norms with regards to tobacco use.”
Mathis brought this evidence along with examples from other institutions with successful smoking bans to a handful of the meetings that DSU had when the ban was just an idea. DSU has been having meetings on this topic for the past three years, he said.
Currently 1,127 campuses in the U.S. are 100 percent smoke free and 758 are 100 percent tobacco free, according to a survey by the American Nonsmokers’ Rights Foundation which publishes current data on many tobacco related issues. In Utah, Brigham Young University is the only other higher education institution that has adopted a 100 percent tobacco free campus and the survey reported no other schools in Utah that have 100 percent smoke free campuses. In California, the entire University of California school system which includes 10 campuses has a 100 percent tobacco free policy. Also, all public higher education institutions in the states of Arkansas and Iowa are 100 percent smoke free campuses by state law.
Up until this ban, which will be put in place January 1, 2014, DSU’s policy has conformed to the state of Utah’s tobacco laws. In Utah, a person can legally use and purchase tobacco products at the age of 19 – these products include traditional tobacco products such as chewing tobacco and cigarettes, as well as smoking cessation products. Also in Utah, due to the Clean Air Act, smoking cigarettes and using vaporizers is banned within 25 feet of a building.
Although Mathis said that the proof is there for DSU’s ban to improve public health, the policies enforceability is still in question. “If you want my opinion, it’s not totally enforceable, but neither is the speed limit,” Mathis said. This policy is aimed more towards changing the social norms on campus and minimizing exposure, Mathis said, rather than at catching everyone who smokes.
“There are a lot of people that smoke on that campus, you’re not going to be able to stop them from smoking,” Brendon Gunn, 2010 DSU graduate and former smoker said. Gunn earned his bachelor’s degree in communications and has since opened a local store, Cloud 9 Vapor, which aims to help people quit smoking using vaporizing devices. Gunn works closely with a portion of the community who are trying to quit cigarettes and one of his concerns with the smoke ban is that there will still be a lot of smokers on campus that will just continue to smoke anyway. Instead of a flat out ban, Gunn said, he would suggest having designated smoking areas with educational information and ash trays. Without ash trays and help for people to quit, he said he speculates that the campus will collect cigarette butts and people will just continue to smoke.
For those that want to quit, DSU’s longstanding Health and Wellness Center sends students to the Southwest Utah Public Health Department where Mathis and his co-workers help smokers try to quit. This coaching is totally free. Also, in December, the health department is unrolling a peer-to-peer program based on a highly successful model from a Colorado school. This program teaches peers who have quit smoking to help other peers who are trying to quit. Mathis welcomes any college students to join in on this program as well.
One successful way to quit smoking, Gunn said, is through vaping. Gunn didn’t agree with DSU’s way of categorizing vaporizers as traditional smoking methods in this new policy. Vaporizers are substantially helping the world’s cigarette problem and should not be included in DSU’s bank, he said.
“The public should embrace new nicotine methods,” Gunn said, “because they’ve been proven safer, and they’ve been proven to help people quit smoking.”
The DSU ban does not technically include all nicotine products. Nicotine gum and smoking cessation patches – considered by the FDA to be a medication – are not included in the ban, Mathis said. The fact that vaporizers were included in the ban goes to show how policy makers are still uneasy with vaporizers being categorized as legitimate smoking cessation devices.
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