Results from the tobacco-free survey administered two weeks ago at Northern Michigan University were released before Thanksgiving break, revealing that more people are in favor of the ban than against it.
On Sunday, Nov. 10, NMU concluded an online survey that began on Monday, Nov. 4 pertaining to whether or not the campus should become a tobacco-free environment. According to NMU Communications and Marketing, 3,208 students, faculty and staff completed the survey with 1,926 in support of the ban and 1,281 against the enactment of a new policy. Overall, almost exactly 60 percent of the surveys were in favor of a tobacco-free campus, while 40 percent were against.
Cindy Paavola, director of Communications and Marketing, said the decision to enact a new policy pertaining to tobacco usage on campus was not due to the presence of a survey.
“The decision to go tobacco-free at NMU is not based on the survey,” Paavola said. “It is only one measurement in the process. We are not telling people to quit smoking, necessarily, just not on campus, promoting a healthier workplace and environment for individuals.”
According to NMU, there are 1,180 universities and colleges across the nation that have enacted smoke or tobacco-free policies on their campuses. Out of those 1,180, 793 campuses have 100 percent tobacco-free regulations.
Paavola said two chief concerns with the new policy amongst survey-takers deal with the presence of certain kinds of tobacco products and rights amongst people around campus.
“The two most prevalent comments coming from the survey talk about personal rights and different kinds tobacco usage,”
Paavola said. “Several people support a smoke-free campus but do not mind the presence of chewing tobacco because it affects fewer people than smoke.”
Paavola also said the survey results have a few more steps to go through before any decision can be made to move forward with a new policy.
“The next place the results will go is to President Haynes,” Paavola said. “He’ll take the report to the NMU Board of Trustees, who will take it under consideration and discuss it next Thursday and Friday or at a future meeting.”
NMU Health Promotions specialist Lenny Shible said the latest survey, containing a single question with room for individual response, minimized the amount of questions since the last time the topic was discussed back in 2008.
“The survey that was done last time asked more questions, yet there were more questions asked last time about what was going to happen because of it,” Shible said. “There were so many uncertainties. From my understanding of it, there may have been a few more people who took it last time and it was pretty much a 50-50 split.”
According to Shible, the response to the 2013 survey showed great initiative from the student-body at NMU, as well as faculty and staff who also gave results.
“It’s a pretty healthy response for any campus community,” Shible said. “I was really pleased with the people who voted. Our office spent a lot of time encouraging people to vote. We take a philosophical approach that we don’t want to encourage people to vote one way or another. Regardless of position, we just wanted to get people to say what they think.”
Following a potential inclusion of the new tobacco-free policy, the university would assist cessation programs for people attempting to quit using tobacco products, according to NMU. With the policy affecting all residence halls and university apartment buildings, Paavola said the board has been researching expansively while moving forward.
“Looking nationally, other trends at colleges say the nation is planning on lowering the use of tobacco products to 20 percent by 2020,” Paavola said. “The board will ask peers at other colleges at their committee meeting to make sure the report is well-balanced. The report will basically just say, ‘Here are the facts.’”
The preliminary proposed recommendation by NMU says the university could become a tobacco-free campus as of Friday, Aug. 1, 2014.
According to the recommendation, people who choose to continue to use tobacco products would be allowed to do so in personal vehicles parked on campus with closed windows and the NMU golf course.
Shible said due to state law, some of the walkways located around campus will still allow the acts of using tobacco.
“We want to use the first year to move towards a more-strict enforcement of the policy, so signage will be used,” Shible said. “There is a map that is going forward with all of this that Public Safety spent time on, if this gets approved. The map identifies a number of walkways around campus that technically belong to the city, so those walkways could be opened up for people to use tobacco products.”
The discussion meeting about the potential new policy will take place on Thursday, Dec. 12, Friday, Dec. 13 or on a to-be-determined later date, according to NMU.