Board of Regents bans tobacco on public college campuses

alopez@macon.comMarch 19, 2014 

Inside the Charles H. Jones Building at Middle Georgia State College’s Macon campus, Michael Prater sat by the big windows overlooking the lake.

Right outside, an ashtray in a designated smoking area was filled with discarded cigarette butts.

Prater found out Wednesday that the Georgia Board of Regents approved a policy that prohibits the use of all forms of tobacco products on University System of Georgia property.

Prater, who smokes on campus regularly, said students “need it as a stress reliever.”

The no-tobacco policy goes into effect Oct. 1 and applies to all employees, students, contractors, subcontractors and visitors. The use of electronic cigarettes, which produce vapor instead of smoke and don’t contain tobacco, also is prohibited, said John Millsaps, spokesman for the University System of Georgia.

Like Middle Georgia State College, Georgia College & State University in Milledgeville keeps smoking limited to designated areas. Fort Valley State University officials were not available for comment on the policy late Wednesday.

Private institutions aren’t much friendlier to smokers. At Mercer University, smoking is banned within 15 feet of campus buildings. At Wesleyan College, smoking is banned within 25 feet of campus buildings and is limited to designated areas.

Nationwide, about 17 percent of adults between 18 and 24 are cigarette smokers, according to 2012 estimates by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

But as of January, at least 1,182 college campuses in the U.S. had adopted smoke-free-campus policies, according to Americans for Nonsmokers’ Rights, a lobbying organization based in California.

There are plenty of smokers at Middle Georgia State who will be affected by the Board of Regents’ decision, said Jennifer Brannon, vice president of student affairs.

“We’re going to develop a plan for how we’re going to implement the new policy and help to develop smoking cessation programs to help students and staff to adapt,” Brannon said.

The college’s 2014-2015 student code of conduct will have to be revised to reflect the no-tobacco policy, and the administration will have to work with campus police on enforcement, Brannon said.

To contact writer Andres David Lopez, call 256-9751.

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