The new Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University tobacco ban, which is binding on all three campuses and was unanimously approved by the Board of Trustees, will go into effect in August. This policy prohibits not only smoking, but also chewing tobacco and “smokeless cigarettes”. All three campuses have been asked to put a committee together to “strategize how to get the information out, how to provide support, how to make sure people understand what is happening…, and what may be the least painful or most positive way to educate the community,” said Dean of Students Larry Stephan. “When I first heard about the committee,” related Col. Fred Cone, head of the Prescott Campus’ Veteran’s Affairs Department and Veterans Association, “I thought this was going to be a committee to recommend smoking policy. But after the meeting, [the Veterans Affairs representatives] came back and told me that the policy had already been decided by the Board of Trustees, and there was no discussion.”
“It’s not as radical as it seems,” pointed out Dean Stephan, “and it seems that there were somewhere over 800 universities that had gone to [smokeless campuses], including ASU most recently.” According to a publication from the American Nonsmokers’ Rights Foundation dated Jan. 2, there are 1,129 universities in the United States that prohibit smoking entirely, and of these, 766 have a tobacco-free policy like the one ERAU will be implementing. “The university sees it as their responsibility to provide a healthy environment for all students, staff, and faculty, and second-hand smoke can cause health problems in people who don’t participate,” said Dean Stephan.
The strongest effect of this tobacco-less policy will be felt in the international student and veteran communities on campus, groups that have a higher rate of smokers in them than the average American college student. “Our stance is, we are not saying you can’t smoke, but you can’t smoke on campus,” said Dean Stephan, and this will be an issue for students who live on campus, since the residential halls are included in the tobacco ban. The Wellness Center will be providing classes and resources for people who want to quit smoking, in order to try and ease their transition. “We want to minimize conflict with anybody”, emphasized Dean Stephan, “and we want to support everyone’s good health.”
The committee is made up of Student Government Association representatives, international students, veterans, representatives from the Residence Hall Association, Admissions represented by Dean of Enrollment Management Bryan Dougherty, Wellness Center staff, and faculty representation by Jack Panosian, who is the speaker of the Faculty Senate. Director of Human Resources Sara Heffelfinger is chairing the committee, and their first meeting to begin preliminary discussion and introductions took place earlier in the month.
This smoking policy will not be accepted without dissent, however, as there are already groups on campus who do not agree with it. When asked why he thought the board made this decision, Dean Stephan answered, “I think it’s out of their desire to ensure a healthy lifestyle for students, staff, and faculty on campus.”
“That leads itself to some problems,” commented Col. Cone. “We have some people that are really caught up in the smoking thing and they will have a difficult time, and we’ll work with them, we’ll do whatever we can, but it looks like it has been dictated to us all from the top.”