By Seth Littrell
Register News Writer
RICHMOND — Eastern Kentucky University President Michael Benson announced in a video Sept. 27 that a campus-wide tobacco free policy was being developed by a university task force.
The policy, that Benson wants to implement June 1, would prohibit use of tobacco products on campus. Since 2006, EKU has allowed smoking in designated outdoor areas 25 feet away from building entrances.
“We have an opportunity to improve the health of everyone who steps on our campus,” Benson said in the video. “Second-hand smoke exposure causes nearly 50,000 deaths each year among adults in the United States, and it is also linked to numerous health issues including heart disease and lung cancer.”
Renee Fox, director of Healthy U at EKU and member of the task force, said that once the policy is completed and finalized at the end of October, it will be submitted to the board of regents for review and approval.
She said an event to raise awareness for the new policy will take place Nov. 21, the same date as the American Cancer Society’s annual Great American Smokeout.
People at the event will be able to pledge to quit smoking for a day or for good. Those who don’t smoke can pledge to be supportive of someone who is trying to quit.
Fox also said EKU will begin offering a support program for anyone wanting to quit tobacco dependence. The program will use the Cooper/Clayton method, which was developed by two University of Kentucky professors and combines social support at meetings with nicotine replacement in the form of patches, gum and lozenges. The university will provide nicotine replacement products for those in the program free of charge, Fox said.
The proposal is receiving support from the executive cabinet of EKU’s Student Government Association. SGA has proposed student-driven legislation for a smoke-free campus several times in the past.
In 2010 the student senate passed a resolution in favor of reforming the committee that set the current smoking policy to investigate whether a ban was needed. In 2012, an SGA committee posted signs and marked off areas in an effort to make students aware of where the 25-feet policy allows people to smoke.
SGA President Sarah Carpenter said a representative of the task force contacted her about the new tobacco-free policy proposal, and she and her cabinet fully support it.
EKU won’t be the first university in Kentucky to ban the use of tobacco on campus. According to their websites, several schools in the area, including UK and the University of Louisville, have gone either smoke free or entirely tobacco free. Similarly, Northern Kentucky University’s board of regents announced in January that it would be developing a tobacco-free policy which, like EKU’s will go into effect in 2014. Western Kentucky University still allows tobacco use on campus, but only in designated areas.
Seth Littrell can be reached at email@example.com or 624-6623.