UL-Lafayette prepares for tobacco free campus _lowres

Advocate staff photo by BRYAN TUCK -- Signs have been placed around the University of Louisiana at Lafayette campus announcing a ban on smoking beginning August 1.

The front of the Edith Garland Dupré Library, the collection of benches behind Griffin Hall and other popular smoking spots at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette will be clearing up very soon.

The university’s state-mandated smoke-free policy, as well as a ban on smokeless tobacco products, is set to take effect Aug. 1. So tobacco users will have to head off campus and find other spots to indulge their habit.

“The tobacco-free policy is not intended to force anyone in the campus community to quit,” said Joey Pons, associate director of public safety at UL-Lafayette. “We are trying to promote a health and wellness environment on campus. We feel like a university’s role as a community leader is to do that.”

The ban stems from a 2013 state law mandating that all public universities be at least smoke-free by fall 2014.

The university had formed a working group of students and faculty to weigh in on how to implement the law.

“Knowing that we had a year, we were fortunate to be able to take our time on it,” Pons said. “One of the big decisions we made along the way was — knowing that we were required to be smoke free — we made the decision to go tobacco free.”

The ban on all tobacco products came from concerns about the cleanliness and decorum of its usage, Pons said.

“Nobody likes to see a bottle of spit in the classroom,” he said. “It’s just unbecoming.”

Former Student Government Association President David Neef, part of the working group, said the new policy was crafted with students in mind.

“Students should be pretty happy to see this going on at the university,” he said. “We look forward to a good year and all the years that are going to follow.”

As for the students, their opinions seem to be pretty split.

“It sucks that we have to ban smoking on campus in general,” said Ryan Hubphreys, senior international relations major. “I think it’s slightly unfair. There wasn’t a poll or anything, but I know a lot of universities are doing it.”

Psychology senior Rick Cederholm said he supports the ban.

“It’ll be nice to not have the putrid smell everywhere,” he said. “It’ll be nice to walk to walk between classes and not inhale noxious fumes constantly.”

The policy excludes electronic cigarettes, but bans using those devices indoors.

“An electronic cigarette is not technically tobacco,” Pons said. “However, in the social context of the term, it’s grouped in the same category as tobacco product so it’s addressed in the tobacco-free policy.”

“You can vape,” he added. “You just have to go outside to do it.”

Anyone on campus caught using tobacco products will be reported to various departments, depending on who they are.

“If you’re a student, you’ll be referred to the dean of student life and conduct,” Pons said. “If you’re an employee, you’ll be reported to your supervisor and ultimately referred to human resources department for disciplinary action. If you’re not a student or employee, then my office will be dealing with you.”

After repeat offenses, a violator may be asked to leave campus.

“The policy has some teeth in it,” Pons said. “I’m hoping we don’t have to use those teeth. I’m hopeful the community will make the right decisions.”

A state law previously prohibited smoking inside public buildings and in schools, and smoking was already prohibited smoking within 25 feet of university buildings.

South Louisiana Community College and LSU will also ban tobacco starting in August. Southern University has had a tobacco-free campus for the past few years.

At least 1,372 college or university campuses in the U.S. ban smoking on their campuses policies, with 938 of those tobacco free and 176 prohibiting e-cigarettes, according to figures from the Americans for Nonsmokers’ Rights.