Campus tobacco-free policy passes

Cody Boyer

The NMU Board of Trustees passed the tobacco-free campus policy during the week before winter break, making the campus of Northern Michigan University a tobacco-free establishment by the Fall 2014 semester.

The decision to pass the policy was made Friday, Dec. 13 and bans cigarettes, chewing tobacco and e-cigarettes from the university for future semesters, according to the NMU website.

Cindy Paavola, committee chairwoman and director of NMU Communications and Marketing, said while the vote amongst the committee was not unanimous, the policy was widely accepted across the board with the help of information gathered from different sources.

“The board had been kept up to date on the ongoing discussion over the semester,” Paavola said. “Each member of the board had the opportunity to ask questions and discuss it in a public meeting. We brought up some of the discussions brought across the campus within surveys, and the vote was passed with one member not in favor.”

According to the policy, it will be made effective on Friday, Aug. 1, making NMU one of 29 other Michigan colleges to become tobacco-free by September  2014.

According to the NMU website, there are currently 1,179 colleges in the United States that have enacted tobacco or smoke-free bans while 794 colleges are ban every tobacco product. The preliminary proposal to make the university tobacco-free was reported in October 2013 while President David Haynes assigned research groups to look into the topic over the summer of last year.

Paavola said the reasons given in the surveys from people against the policy were typically one of two main arguments.

“There were a lot of people of those who voted ‘no’ who said they would vote ‘yes’ if it was just cigarettes and not chewing tobacco,” Paavola said. “Another common theme from people in opposition of the policy was the university ‘cannot enforce what people do’ concerning tobacco use.”

According to the policy, enforcement actions for the new rule on campus will be implemented into staff and teacher contracts, as well as in the student code of conduct.

A campus-wide online survey was administered on Monday, Nov. 4 last year, closing at the end of the week on Sunday, Nov. 10. According to the survey, which was available online to anyone attending or working at NMU, 60 percent of the 3,208 people who took the survey approved of the new policy while 40 percent were against it.

According to Paavola, the survey was presented to the board and assisted in the process of passing the new policy.

“In the presentation, we brought up what the survey was,” Paavola said. “The student survey was one of many factors. We certainly wanted to see what the pulse of the campus was before we took it before the board. We looked at all of the comments and there were hundreds of them. I wouldn’t know if it actually swayed the committee, but it certainly played a role.”

According to Barbara Coleman, associate professor of Health and Fitness Management, the new policy relays a positive message to not just the local community but also to prospective students looking to attend NMU. Coleman said a tobacco-free campus practices NMU’s message to strive for a better academic atmosphere.

“I’m very happy about the pass,” Coleman said. “It really just reinforces that Northern is willing

to create a healthier climate and culture for our students. The science has been

clear and we have known for a long time about these substance’s impact on the

human body. It’s a good move that values the lives of faculty and staff.”

According to NMU, The enforcement will be handled through the student code through the students in the same manner as if you were to be caught smoking inside any facility right

now. On the faculty/staff side, it will be handled through already-established procedures that relate to university policies.

The enforcement, according to the new policy, will be handled in the same manner as if individuals were to be caught smoking inside any facility under the current regulations.  The first violation will be treated as a warning, then the offender will be in contact with the Dean of Students office or employees will be in contact with their supervisors. They will be informed of the policy and informed of the violation, according to NMU.

If it becomes clear that the violations repeat or become intentional, Paavola said, very clear

disciplinary action will be outlined for them and the policy’s presence will be made known to the campus before implementation.

“Handing out tickets would not be a great way to go,” Paavola said. “That was established pretty

early in our discussions Our goal will be, as soon as the snow melts, we will be putting out a ‘soft launch’; lawn signs, posters and other visual things will be used to get the message out there.”

Coleman, who works alongside a number of student organizations working to promote health studies and awareness at NMU, said the new policy’s enactment coincides with a possible presentation by Patrick Reynolds, activist and grandson of tobacco company owner R.J. Reynolds.

“We are working on the details, like asking for support from all groups,” Coleman said. “We don’t have a contract yet, but we would like to bring him on Tuesday, April 8. Nothing is for sure yet, of course.”