MARQUETTE, Mich.–Northern Michigan University will become a tobacco-free campus effective Aug. 1, 2014. The NMU Board of Trustees on Friday approved a work group’s recommendation that cigarettes, chewing tobacco and e-cigarettes be prohibited from all campus areas. These are all of the tobacco products defined by the American College Health Association.
The only exceptions to the ban would be public sidewalks and roadways that border campus, the NMU Golf Course and personal vehicles with windows closed, provided there are no minors in the vehicle. Native American and religious ceremonies are currently addressed in university policies.
Extensive educational outreach and cessation support will begin next semester. Once the policy is implemented, enforcement for employees will include meeting with a supervisor for one to three violations and disciplinary action for subsequent violations. Student penalties will follow the student code format for different infractions: warnings for the first two violations and a conduct charge for the third. Visitors seen using tobacco will be notified of the policy. If they refuse to comply, they will be asked to leave campus.
“In this age when it has been clearly proven what can happen to people who use or are exposed to tobacco, it is important that we address this,” said Trustee Steven Mitchell. “Tobacco is a carcinogen. This is an important policy that we should adopt at this time.”
Trustee Stephen Adamini said there may be economic advantages associated with a healthier working environment for employees. He said potentially reducing the incidence or severity of tobacco-related medical issues could reduce overall health care costs.
Trustee Gil Ziegler cast the lone dissenting vote. He said, “Where do we draw the line on protecting people? Obesity is one of the biggest health issues in this country. Are we going to start weighing students and telling them what they can or can’t eat? For some things, it’s a matter of personal responsibility. I cannot support this.”
In a report to the board, advisory committee chair Cindy Paavola (Communications) said some of the considerations the committee discussed were cost of implementation (mainly campus signage and educational materials), the on-campus living requirement for freshmen and sophomores, rental properties that fall within campus boundaries and the possible disbursement of smokers and related litter to city areas. But she said the committee determined the benefits outweighed those factors.
Since NMU last considered the issue in 2009, hundreds more colleges and universities have gone smoke or tobacco-free. As of mid-July, 1,178 colleges and universities nationwide were 100 percent smoke or tobacco-free, including 27 in Michigan. This fall, Michigan Technological University and Finlandia University joined Bay College as tobacco-free campuses in the Upper Peninsula. Central Michigan University and Western Michigan University are tentatively set to go tobacco-free next fall while Michigan State University have committees evaluating the option.