Education

Georgia’s Public Universities Go Smoke Free

Credit Michelle Wirth/WABE News

All 31 campuses within the University System of Georgia went officially smoke free Wednesday. That means students can’t light up, use chewing tobacco or e-cigarettes anywhere at school. Kennesaw State University is one of the schools undergoing the change. WABE’s Michelle Wirth spoke with students and administrators at the university.

Tre Robinson skateboards across Kennesaw’s campus. Robinson is a junior communications major who smokes one or two cigarettes a day. He said the change is unfair.

“It’s a violation of freedoms. You telling me what to do. It’s my choice. I should be able to exercise my choice,” said Robinson.

Nearby, sits junior Kayla Jefford. Jefford is a non-smoker who is studying to become a dental hygienist. She believes the change is positive.

“Because it’s like a stress reliever at school, that’s why a lot of students start smoking in college. I just believe that if they have that rule that students can’t start smoking at school

And even though the campus is technically smoke free, some students were still seen puffing on cigarettes and vaporizers in areas previously designated for smoking.

Sophomore Bri Haverhals smokes a pack of cigarettes a day. She’s also upset about the new policy. Haverhals said she should be allowed to smoke because smoking is not illegal.

“I don’t like it because I’m full-time student. I’m here all the time. I don’t want to have to leave campus just to go smoke a cigarette when I could just walk out of my class and smoke a cigarette real quick and relieve my stress. It’s my pastime and it’s an addiction.”

Haverhals said she’s unsure if she can follow the policy, but she plans to give it a try.  

So what happens to students who violate the ban? Michael Sanseviro is Dean of Student Success for Kennesaw State University. He says this semester it plans to educate students and to ask them to put out their cigarettes. Next semester, he said students and employees can report those who violate the policy and their names will go into a database, but they will suffer no immediate consequences.

“I’m hoping that just the lingering possibility of us having us go to a more stringent system will allow us to become voluntarily compliant.”

Sanseviro said Kennesaw and the university system will offer free classes to help students and employees quit smoking.

“We hope the resources we’re providing, and the support we’re providing, will help those who desire to quit to have the support to do so.”

The university limited smoking prior to the ban. A dozen others in the University System are like Kennesaw or had already prohibited smoking.

Marion Fedrick is the vice chancellor for human resources with the University System of Georgia. She said the smoke free policy is part of an overall goal to encourage wellness.

“We want people to be healthier. We only get there when we eliminate the smoke 100 percent. We’re not violating the right for them to smoke. They can still smoke, not on our campuses, but they can still smoke.”

Fedrick says the University System currently spends $19 million dollars per year on healthcare costs due to tobacco use and related illnesses.

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