By Christopher Payton
Eastern Kentucky University became completely tobacco free this past week, striking a lot of changes across the campus.
The Richmond Chamber of Commerce joined with the campus community in a midday Friday ribbon-cutting ceremony to celebrate the new environment.
Some of the changes on campus are as simple as banners and sandwich boards to remind people not to use tobacco products, said Jack Rutherford, co-chair of the campus tobacco-ban task force.
Other changes will include removal of most of the outdoor boxes to which smoking was previously limited, he said. Until then, the university wants people to understand that smoking is no longer allowed even in those spaces, Rutherford added.
Some of the boxes will be converted into covered bus stops or bike stands. Those not used for other purposes will be sold. All of the boxes’ concrete bases will remain and some will be used as stands for student sculptures, said Renee Fox, the task force’s other co-chair.
And members of a new ambassador program will remind people on campus about the tobacco ban, Rutherford said. Their mission will be education, not enforcement, he added.
To beautify the campus, Fox said, Eastern will be sponsoring a cleanup event from noon to 1:30 Monday outside the Powell Building. Volunteers will be organized to pick up cigarette butts.
Groups of four will go around campus picking up as many butts as they can in a competition to win free summer memberships at the EKU Fitness and Wellness Center. Free food at T-shirts will be provided for all who help.
EKU President Michael Benson said Eastern is committed to helping its students, faculty and staff to quit smoking and use of other tobacco products.
EKU will continue to offer smoking cessation classes as part of that assistance, Fox said. Nicotine replacements will be provided free, to students, faculty and even spouses who participate in the classes, she said.
“This is not anti-smoker,” Benson said. “This is not against people.”
It is against what irrefutable evidence suggests “is one of the worst things you can do to the human body,” he said.