By Lindsay Huffman
Kentucky is known for being one of the top states in the U.S. for tobacco production. And as a result, Kentucky has one of the highest smoking rates in the nation. Cigarettes (real and electronic), snuff, dip and hookah are common substances that can be found all over the state, including college campuses.
In less than a month, though, one college campus will no longer allow any tobacco on its grounds-the University of Kentucky.
On Nov. 19, UK will join the American Cancer Society’s Great American Smoke-Out initiative and will enact a completely tobacco-free policy. The policy will apply to all UK property within Fayette County, and to everyone on campus: students, faculty, visitors, etc.
The policy will eliminate all tobacco-related practices from the campus. People will not even be able to smoke a cigarette in their own cars.
“The goal is to promote a healthy environment so people can live, work and learn,” said Ellen Hahn, the director of the Kentucky Center for Smoke-Free Policy.
Hahn said the Board of Trustees at UK has been discussing the move for several years. Currently, smoking is prohibited in or within 20 feet of all buildings. Last year, the UK Medical Center became completely tobacco-free.
“There has been very little push-back,” Hahn said. “There has been a lot of positive support.”
Hahn said some people dislike the ban, but most know why the ban is being put into place.
“People get it,” she said. “They understand there are several . . . problems, and that it is preventable.”
Hahn said UK will inform its students and employees about the new policy in three different ways: signs posted around campus, letters and by providing access to smoking cessation treatments.
“UK is putting its money where its mouth is,” Hahn said. “[The treatments] will be very discounted and affordable.”
UK is not asking students to quit smoking, but rather to manage their habits, Hahn said. She said the policy would be enforced well. If a person is caught smoking on campus, he or she will be asked to put out their cigarette; however, if he or she deliberately disobeys the policy on several occasions, the student or employee would be suspended, expelled or dismissed.
Hahn said UK’s decision has caused “a lot of buzz” within the state. Other universities have thought about going completely tobacco-free, including the University of Louisville and Bellarmine University.
Eastern is currently not completely tobacco-free. Bryan Makinen, the director of Environmental Health and Safety, said tobacco is not allowed in or within 25 feet of any building.
Even though it is uncertain whether Eastern could possibly become tobacco-free, students have already formed their opinions about UK’s policy.
Liz Mindel, a junior elementary education major from Walton, said she thinks the policy is “far out” and “un-enforceable.”
“I agree with no smoking …but how do you enforce it?” she said. “If you have problems, find a way to enforce the rules better.”
Josh Taylor, a senior environmental studies major from Cynthiana, also said he thinks UK’s policy is “overbearing.”
“I don’t feel like a public institution should be able to do enough to designate areas instead of banning [tobacco] completely.”
Other students, like Becca Johnson, a sophomore social work major from Dry Ridge, said they think the policy is a good idea, and some said a similar policy would be beneficial at Eastern.
“I know Eastern has smoking policies, but most people don’t follow them,” Johnson said. “It would be more obvious if people break the rules.”
For more information about Eastern’s current smoking policies, visit Eastern’s Web site or call Bryan Makinen at 859-622-2421. For more information about UK’s policy, visit www.uky.edu/TobaccoFree.