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Area colleges moving to tobacco-free campuses

 

College campuses in the Golden Triangle have all announced they will enact tobacco bans within the next year. Mississippi University for Women’s ban is already in effect, while Mississippi State University’s will start Aug. 1 and East Mississippi Community College’s will start Jan. 1, 2017.

College campuses in the Golden Triangle have all announced they will enact tobacco bans within the next year. Mississippi University for Women’s ban is already in effect, while Mississippi State University’s will start Aug. 1 and East Mississippi Community College’s will start Jan. 1, 2017. Photo by: Luisa Porter/Dispatch Staff

 

Slim Smith

 

 

The move toward tobacco-free campuses ins headed toward the home stretch in the Golden Triangle. 

 

When East Mississippi Community College puts its tobacco-free policy into effect at beginning of next year, all three of the Golden Triangle's college campuses will be officially off limits for tobacco users. 

 

EMCC's new tobacco policy goes into effect on Jan. 1, 2017. 

 

Mississippi State's tobacco ban goes into effect on Aug. 1 while Mississippi University for Women initiated its ban on July 1. 

 

All three of the policies will ban the use of tobacco in all forms, including "vapes" or e-cigarettes, from all school facilities and property. 

 

So far, the response to the ban at The W has been positive, said LeAnn Alexander, director for Campus Recreation. Alexander serves as co-chair of The W's tobacco task force, which formulated the university's new policy. 

 

"We haven't gotten much feedback, but just from my personal observation, I think it's gone very well," Alexander said. "Apparently, smokers are abiding by the rules. I think the response has been pretty positive, of course, the better indicator will be what we see when the fall term begins and all of our students are back on campus." 

 

Alexander said work on the new policy began last fall. The W used the American Cancer Society's "Great American Smokeout" event to begin kicking off its efforts toward banning tobacco from campus. 

 

"We did a lot of research, including looking at how other schools who have banned tobacco, approached it. A lot of it depends on getting the word out. Any time you take away a privilege, it can cause static. So we wanted to make sure everything was in place. There were a lot of moving parts." 

 

Under its previous policy, the university prohibited smoking in and near campus buildings. The new policy will prohibit tobacco use from the entire campus. Approved in May, The W spent two months getting the word out about the policy, including signage throughout campus. 

 

Both MUW and MSU are informing students wishing to stop using tobacco of smoking cessation programs offered through their student health programs. 

 

MSU approved its new policy in April and will implement it in the weeks before the fall term begins in August. 

 

Regina Young Hyatt, the MSU vice president for Student Affairs, said the goal of the new policy is to promote a more healthy lifestyle for students and staff. 

 

"Mississippi State is joining nearly 1,500 universities across the country in adopting policies that provide a smoke-free and vape-free campus," she said in a statement. "This policy is part of the university's commitment to creating a healthy environment for our campus community." 

 

EMCC, meanwhile, will use the rest of the year to inform students of its new policy. 

 

"We are excited about offering our students a tobacco-free environment that will be accompanied with new, healthy lifestyle initiatives," EMCC President Thomas Huebner said. "This is a big step in the right direction in meeting one of our primary objectives and that is to ensure the well-being of our students." 

 

All three schools say the success of the new policies relies on voluntary compliance and peer oversight. None of the policies include sanctions for those who violate them. 

 

"When we first started talking with our students and staff, some people have questions about that," Alexander said. "Our policy really counts on people being aware of the policy and conforming voluntarily. I really believe that's the most effective way. It's very much a social norm situation. I'm pretty sure when people understand that, they are going to comply."

 

Slim Smith is a columnist and feature writer for The Dispatch. His email address is ssmith@cdispatch.com.

 

 

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