UA weighs total ban of tobacco products

2014-07-17T19:00:00Z 2014-08-04T20:24:22Z UA weighs total ban of tobacco productsBy Carol Ann Alaimo Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star

Smokers who live, work, visit or study at the University of Arizona may soon be forced to take their habit off-campus.

They’ll have to find the nearest non-UA sidewalk to light up on under a proposal to ban smoking and nicotine-containing products anywhere on university property — even outdoors.

The draft measure, backed by faculty and student groups, aims “to promote a stronger sense of public health on campus,” said Melissa Vito, a senior vice president at the school.

Indoor areas at UA went smoke-free several years ago but until now puffing was still allowed outside in areas away from building entrances.

The policy change, as proposed, would extend the smoking ban to all UA property indoors and out, including courtyards, walkways, athletic venues, parking lots and garages.

It prohibits cigarettes, e-cigarettes, cigars, pipes, hookah and all types of smokeless tobacco.

The university is collecting feedback on the proposal until July 27. After that, UA President Ann Weaver Hart will decide whether to approve the policy as is or make changes based on the input.

A few dozen comments collected so far include concerns that some sports fans might be put off if they can’t duck outside during halftime for smoke breaks, Vito said.

“We will be considering this along with other feedback to determine what makes the most sense,” she said.

The UA proposal is akin to one adopted last year at Arizona State University in Tempe, and to one being pushed by student health advocates at Northern Arizona University in Flagstaff.

The UA’s medical school also adopted a tobacco ban last year and hundreds of universities nationwide have taken similar steps, Vito said.

UA nutritional sciences professor Wanda Howell, who chaired the UA’s Faculty Senate when the change was debated, sees the new measure as a sign of changing times.

Relatively few UA faculty members are smokers these days, and most support a tobacco ban, she said.

“I remember the days at U of A when you could smoke in your office in the ’70s and ’80s. Then a new generation of faculty grew up who were not in favor. And most of my generation have gotten old enough now that they don’t want to die early so a lot of them have quit,” she said.

Faculty members from foreign countries where public smoking is still common have voiced the most concern about the new measure, she added.

Recent surveys of more than 2,000 UA students and nearly 800 employees showed about 70 percent of both groups support a tobacco-free campus, Vito said.

The health benefits of a tobacco ban outweigh the inconvenience to those who smoke, said Isaac Ortega, UA’s student body president.

Student smokers who live on campus may now have to stroll several blocks to light up instead of being able to duck outside their dorms, but that shouldn’t take more than a few minutes each way, he said.

“I feel confident it’s the right thing to do,” he said of the ban.

Contact the reporter at calaimo@tucson.com or 573-4138.

Copyright 2014 Arizona Daily Star. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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