The University of Alaska system, including Kenai Peninsula College campuses and extension sites, is going smoke and tobacco free before the end of the year.
The new policy includes e-cigarettes, and a $50 fine for littering tobacco related materials. Implementation will begin Nov. 19, the date of the Great American Smokeout, on most University of Alaska properties, but KPC, the University of Alaska Fairbanks and Prince William Sound College will not be enforcing the change until after Dec. 31. This includes anyone, including members of the public, who enters UAA campuses.
“I believe the transition to the new policy will be difficult particularly since (the Kenai River Campus) does not have a nearby public sidewalk and we’re surrounded by 309 acres (of forest),” said KPC Director Gary Turner. “On the positive side it is hoped this will lead more tobacco users to attempt to quit.”
The main purpose for the policy is to encourage a healthier campus for smokers and nonsmokers, according to the UAA website. Approximately twice as many UAA students have respiratory conditions or cardiovascular disease than students who smoke.
Kenai River Campus Student Union President Jayce Robertson said last year, prior to the UA Board of Regents approval of the policy change, the union polled nearly 300 students that attend classes on campus and more than 90 percent of those polled were opposed to the decision. He and a number of his peers gave personal testimony against maintaining a tobacco-free site last year.
Right now there are nearly 2,600 students enrolled in distance learning and on-campus courses, Turner said.
Roberston said the KRC campus has several designated smoking areas, all of which are behind the buildings, making them non-intrusive. All have commercial-grade receptacles for people to discard their butts.
“If you go outside now, I will bet you money you will not see a cigarette butt, maybe one,” Roberston said. “Once this policy takes effect they’re going to be everywhere.”
Now there are only two places people can smoke, Roberston said. He said people won’t chose to smoke somewhere more visible.
There are a few situations outlined in the policy that dictate when and where it may still be legal to smoke including within personal vehicles when not in a university parking garage, tobacco use for dean or director approved educational, clinical or religious ceremonies, and for research among others, according to the policy, which was approved Dec. 11, 2014, by the board.
Advancement Programs Manager Suzie Kendrick said site administrators were given some freedom for setting a date for implementation.
Starting Nov. 19, which is the middle of the semester, like UAA plans or doing it or Dec. 1, which is just before finals, like some other campuses, is not good timing, Turner said. “The campuses are closed from Dec. 24-Jan. 3 so when students, faculty and staff return in January the policy will be in place.”
As of Oct. 2, 1,620 U.S. colleges and universities are 100 percent smokefree, and of those 1,130 are 100 percent tobacco-free, while 769 prohibit e-cigarettes, according to the American Nonsmokers’ Rights Foundation. Alaska already has five colleges and universities that are smoke and, or tobacco free, including the Alaska Christian College, according to the ANRF’s list.
Kendrick said the UAA’s policy does not include hiring additional security to police any violators, so neither will KPC. According to the new policy, staff and students are to educate anyone smoking after the implementation date of the new policy, and in one year the effectiveness of the approach will be assessed.
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