SALT LAKE CITY — About 1,800 universities across the U.S. have gone tobacco-free, according to the American Nonsmokers' Rights Foundation.
The University of Utah is joining those numbers and will officially become tobacco-free starting in July.
So far, the response within the U. community has been "overall positive," said Shawn Wood, a communications specialist for the university.
"You know, this is a change for our larger university community. So there are always going to be growing pains with that, with a changing initiative like this. But overall, the response has been positive,” he said Wednesday.
The mandate will prohibit smoking and the use of any tobacco products on campus grounds at any time.
"The university is not requiring anyone to quit the use of tobacco products. The intention of the rule is to promote healthy lifestyles throughout the U. community and simply means the use of tobacco products on university property is prohibited," a news release from the school announced on Monday.
The rule was approved last May, after which the university began a "yearlong campaign" to educate people who work at and attend the school, Robin Marcus, chief wellness officer for the U., told KSL last year.
When asked why smokeless tobacco products were also prohibited, Marcus said the issue goes "beyond just the smoke in the air."
Approved by the school's Academic Senate, the tobacco-free effort is part of the U.'s commitment "to creating a healthier campus and healthier Utah for our students, faculty, staff, patients and visitors," according to the U.'s release Monday.
"A tobacco-free campus protects members of our community from unwanted and involuntary exposure to tobacco and secondhand smoke, while establishing a supportive, nonjudgmental atmosphere for those trying to quit," according to the rule.
This rule will make the U. a healthier place to work and gain an education.
–Matt Miller, VP of the Associated Students of the U.
The decision to become tobacco-free came about through a student-led initiative and involved representatives across campus. The school gathered feedback through meetings, email and social media.
An academic senate ad hoc committee also explored options for the rule, including the idea of setting up smoking areas.
That committee "met monthly and looked at all the information and data and analyzed everything, and agreed that there would not be any smoking areas. But it was strongly considered before the rule was finalized,” Wood said.
The ad hoc committee decided against setting up smoking areas for a few reasons. They would be "too hard to police," and would be counterintuitive to the university becoming a "100 percent tobacco-free campus," he explained.
What will happen if someone is caught using a tobacco product on campus?
“We’re trying to roll this out in a nonjudgmental, nonconfrontational manner. We’re really trying to focus on this being an informational rollout,” Wood said.
He said that if someone on campus sees another breaking the rule, they are encouraged "to politely and courteously approach that person and just say, 'Hey, the university has made this change. Not sure if you are aware.'"
If a person continues to "egregiously" break the rule, it will be treated like other campus rule violations, and they might be referred to the university police or dean of students' office, the rule reads.
We’re trying to roll this out in a nonjudgmental, nonconfrontational manner. We’re really trying to focus on this being an informational rollout.
–Shawn Wood, communications specialist for the U.
However, no students will be expelled or staff members fired for the violation, Wood said.
“This rule will make the U. a healthier place to work and gain an education,” Matt Miller, vice president of the Associated Students of the University of Utah, said in a statement in August.
The university also offers resources to people trying to quit tobacco use. For more information, visit tobaccofree.utah.edu.
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