Beyond the Hill

Clearing the air: State of Georgia to ban smoking at all public universities starting this fall

Natalie Riess | Art Director

The United States Surgeon General issued the first report claiming that smoking cigarettes can lead to lung cancer in men and women 50 years ago.

Madeleine Solomon, the director of policy and community programs for the Tobacco Technical Assistance Consortium at Emory University, credits the report with shifting attitudes toward smoking. People began to question the previously glamorous habit.

“I remember growing up in the 50s when people counted on cigarettes as social cues,” Solomon said. “Instead of ‘do you mind if I smoke?’ it was ‘do you want to share a cigarette?’ But a lot has been accomplished since then.”

This shift away from cigarettes will continue this fall, when public universities in Georgia begin banning smoking, including electronic cigarettes, on all campuses. The Board of Regents for the University System of Georgia voted on March 19 to make all public university campuses in Georgia smoke-free as of Oct. 1, according to a March 19 USG press release.

The press release states, “The policy applies to all employees, students, contractors, subcontractors and visitors and is applicable 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Also, all events hosted by a USG-entity or on behalf of the USG shall be tobacco and smoke free.”

The USG will assist students and faculty who need help deterring themselves from tobacco usage by providing resources through the USG Workplace Wellness website. The website outlines the dangers of tobacco usage and offers tools, resources and programs to quit.

“Our aim with this policy is to preserve and improve the health, comfort and environment of employees and any persons occupying USG facilities,” said Marion Fedrick, USG’s vice chancellor for human resources, in the press release.

The Tobacco Technical Assistance Consortium, part of the Rollins School of Public Health at Emory University in Atlanta, Ga., works to develop programs and policy interventions at all levels of government to help reduce smoking.

Solomon said smoke-free campuses are a way to show young people that smoke-free environments are not only healthy and accessible, but also enjoyable.

TTAC attempts to control tobacco usage by implementing training programs and providing technical assistance to people and organizations that need help.

“There is a need to continue the education, to continue to change policy … we know that we can change the environment so that tobacco is no longer attractive, it’s less accessible and fewer young people will want to engage in the practice,” Solomon said.

Americans for Nonsmokers’ Rights has also battled the tobacco industry for years.

“ANR’s focus is not the smoker, but on the non-smoker — they have the right to breathe smoke-free air, especially in indoor environments. No one should have to choose between their job and their health,” said Bronson Frick, the associate director of ANR.

ANR is the primary national lobbying organization against the tobacco industry, addiction, and secondhand smoke and it implements policy and legislation programs similar to TTAC.

“With campuses, it used to be pretty common to have smoking in dorms, in faculty offices, smoke goes through the entire building. People have the right to breathe smoke free over other people’s privilege of smoking indoors,” Frick said.

The USG followed Emory, which became smoke-free in 2012, in banning smoking.

“I think the response has been overwhelmingly positive. Of course we have people that don’t like the ban, especially in a student environment, but it’s not just your health that you are affecting, it’s other people’s health,” said Erin Long, the director of human resources communications for Emory.

The university set up Tobacco-Free Emory to explain the policy and offer assistance and resources for quitting. It also charts feedback to the program, which Long said has been overwhelmingly positive.

Said Long: “As each generation comes in, I think you’re just going to see less desire to smoke. I remember when I was in school we had a smoking area and going to work and having smoking in the building. That is not socially allowed anymore.”

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