St. Thomas is one step closer to becoming a tobacco-free campus on Jan. 1, 2014.

The President’s Staff under Father Dennis Dease endorsed the tobacco-free concept at its May 6 meeting, and a committee will be appointed to work out an implementation plan in conjunction with smoking cessation programs before returning to the President’s Staff this fall for final approval. The policy would affect the St. Paul and Minneapolis campuses but not the Rome campus or the Gainey Conference Center in Owatonna.

More than 30 Minnesota colleges and universities already have tobacco bans. Nationwide, 700 are tobacco free and more than 1,000 are smoke free.

“Research shows that having a tobacco-free campus literally changes the behavior of students,” said Dr. Jane Canney, vice president for student affairs. “They smoke less and have a better understanding of the health and wellness aspects of their lives, and they come to value a tobacco-free environment.”

In the St. Thomas policy, “tobacco” is defined as any lighted cigarette, cigar, pipe, clove cigarette, hookah smoked products, electronic cigarettes and smokeless tobacco in any form. Promotion, sale or distribution of tobacco products and merchandise, including any items carrying tobacco logos, will be prohibited on campus or at any university-sponsored events.

“Compliance with this policy will depend upon the cooperation of all faculty, staff and students as well as campus visitors,” states a policy proposal considered by the President’s Staff. “The university will develop training programs to assist and prepare students and employees to help one another honor the tobacco-free environment that this policy supports.”

Proposal came from students

In the fall semester of 2010, Mike Orth, then president of the sophomore class and until recently president of the Undergraduate Student Government, approached St. Thomas leadership about ways to reduce tobacco use on campus.

“Mike took a real leadership role on the issue,” Canney said. “He formed a USG Tobacco Policy Review Committee during the 2010-2011 academic year, which conducted two student surveys and did thorough research. They involved a lot of students, and they concluded that they wanted to advocate for a tobacco-free campus.”

Orth decided to become involved because he knew the issue would become “incredibly important” for the St. Thomas community. Over time, he became convinced it made sense for St. Thomas to be tobacco free.

“A tobacco-free campus means two things,” he said. “First, that our university offers a safe and healthy place for students, faculty and staff to work, attend class and live. Second, that St. Thomas encourages the entire community to make healthy choices. That has an especially profound impact on students who are developing habits for the rest of their lives.”

Through the surveys and interviews, the USG committee became more familiar with the pros and cons of limited or no tobacco consumption on campus. Supporters objected to inhaling second-hand smoke and believed limits or a ban would promote healthy practices for people to follow for the rest of their lives, including in smoke-free work places. Opponents said a ban would infringe on their personal freedoms and would create safety concerns and littering problems by forcing people to smoke on public property, such as sidewalks, streets and the Summit Avenue median.

There are strong opinions on both sides of the issue,” Orth said. “A change like this takes time, and we have been careful to include every opinion in the discussion.”

Tobacco-Free Campus work group formed

Following the Undergraduate Student Government recommendation in the fall of 2011, a Tobacco-Free Campus work group was formed. It included representation from faculty, students, exempt staff and non-exempt staff. After 18 months of consultation and research, the work group developed a draft tobacco free campus policy proposal.

This spring, members of the workgroup made nearly 20 presentations to committees and organizations across campus, discussing the proposal and assuring each constituency that it would be involved in future discussions regarding implementation of the policy once it was approved.

“I believe we are ready to move forward as an educational institution and not only become a tobacco-free campus,” Orth said, “but also utilize this opportunity to educate our students, faculty, and staff about living healthier lives.”

Among those participating on the Tobacco Free Campus work group is Dr. Jill Manske, a biology professor who completed a master’s degree in public health at the University of Minnesota last year. Manske and Dr. Jolynn Gardner of the Health and Human Performance Department (also a work group member) are developing tools to assess the attitudes and tobacco use before and after the ban.

Manske said she became involved in the work group a year ago after Canney asked her if she would be interested in serving as faculty representative. She said yes because of its origin as a student-generated initiative.

“It represents the type of student/grass-root ‘working for the common good’ that we hope to inspire in our students,” said Manske, who teaches a course in women’s health. “I also see this as an important women’s health issue. More men than women smoke, but smoking among college-age women has increased since the 1980s for a variety of reasons, including weight control and media exposure.”

Manske cited a 2001 U.S. Surgeon General’s report that women’s death rates due to lung cancer, a disease primarily caused by cigarette smoking, have increased 600 percent since 1950 and that “smoking-related disease among women is full-blown epidemic.”

Added Manske: “I think that anything we can do to counter these social pressures, and to introduce a different culture around tobacco use, is important.”

U of M will have smoking ban

The University of Minnesota Twin Cities campus is the most recent to announce a ban – at least a smoking ban, that is. The University Senate, made up of faculty, students and staff, voted May 2 in favor of a smoking ban and President Eric Kaler concurred, telling the Star Tribune: “A tobacco-free campus has become an expectation … rather than an innovation. It’s about time for us.” The ban could begin in the fall of 2014, and in the meantime officials will determine details such as whether the ban will include chewing tobacco.

Two other U of M campuses already have bans – tobacco in Crookston and smoking in Duluth. Private colleges with tobacco bans are Bethel, Northwestern, St. Catherine and St. Scholastica, and other major public institutions include state universities in Bemidji, Mankato, Marshall, Moorhead, St. Cloud and Winona.

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6 Responses

  1. Joseph Grodahl

    With all due respect to the well-intentioned souls pushing for this, this is silliness. Seems more appropriate for a puritanical school than a Catholic school. G.K. Chesteron warns about “the mere diabolical idiocy that can regard beer or tobacco as in some way evil and unseemly in themselves.” Will alcohol at events (for those of us of age) be banned next? How about high-sugar or high-sodium foods? Red meat? Educating about and providing healthy options is wonderful, but stifling bans are not.

  2. Matt Jones

    I am writing this comment because I am against a tobacco ban here at the University of St. Thomas. A ban on tobacco products would be detrimental to the university. According to a study done by the American Lung Association in 2006, nearly 20 percent of college students use tobacco products. They found that predominantly these students began their habit in high school, and that the demographic that used the most were white males and females. With nearly 11,000 students attending St. Thomas at the undergraduate and graduate levels, only 14 percent of those students are students of color, from those statistics this means that approximately 9,500 St. Thomas students are white, and according to the ALA study, nearly 2,000 of those students use tobacco in some form. Not only does a ban on tobacco products infringe on the student’s basic individual rights and freedoms, being legal adults at age 18, but how could it affect applications for admission, athletic recruiting, retention rates of current students? If the majority of college smokers begin their habits in high school could we see a drop in high school students interested in UST? This could be problematic because with rising tuition costs, and many recent news reports, people are already wondering if attending college is worth it, and for some tobacco users this could convince them not to go to school, or certainly not apply at UST. In terms of athletic recruiting, if a football, hockey, baseball, or other recruit uses chewing tobacco and is a top prospect, would they want to attend and play for a university who bans its use, would our rich athletic tradition suffer because of this ban? Also, could this lead to other things being banned in the future, such as alcohol? While I am in favor of a healthier St. Thomas, I do not believe this would be a successful way of going about it. I would be in favor of offering cessation programs to those who wish to take advantage of them, but that would be entirely up to the student, or having designated smoking areas away from buildings and doors. Since coming to St. Thomas, I have not seen any problems with tobacco use on our campus, and believe that this could open a Pandora’s Box of problems for the university if it is passed.

  3. Max Meehan

    Not that a ban on cigarettes would effect me at all since I do not smoke, but I feel that someone should leave a comment against this ban. This rule seems like a ban just for ban sake. In an era where personal liberties seem to be diminishing at an alarming rate, this is a prime example of useless regulation. All of the pros presented in this article are very weak.

    In regards to the argument that “Supporters objected to inhaling second-hand smoke”. As a student here for 3 years, I know that I, as well as almost everyone else here, can attest to the fact that the only time that I ever experience second-hand smoke is when I occasionally walk by SCB for 15-20 seconds between classes. I agree that second-hand smoke can be bothersome, but only when someone is smoking next to me in a building, and this is coming from a guy who has asthma. Thankfully, there is already laws against this. But limiting a person’s right to enjoy a smoke, outside, 50 feet from a building entrance? That just seems too far.

    Secondly, in regards to the next argument that “St. Thomas encourages the entire community to make healthy choices.” I do not deny this, in fact I encourage healthy life choices. “Choices” is the key word here. By enacting this ban, you are giving no one any choices. If UST wants to encourage healthy choices, then there are plenty different, more effective ways to go about this. Add a wellness course to the curriculum; have informational packets next to ash-trays, hold assemblies, offer quitting plans to people. You need to give people the education, tools, and freedom to make their own decisions, rather than forcing them to comply.
    “It’s not hard to make decisions when you know what your values are.” -Roy Disney

    In regards to the argument that “It represents the type of student/grass-root ‘working for the common good’ that we hope to inspire in our students.” Who decides what the common good is? We live in a time that regulations, restrictions, and bans by the government (student government or otherwise) are the go-to action in order to “fix” something. What if we went in the other direction? What would happen if we followed the ideas that made this nation the greatest? What if we decided to give people the freedom to choose how they lived their own lives rather than limiting them? I know that this sort of “freedom-based” thinking is hard to come by these days, but I wanted to shed a different light on this subject.

    I will leave those of you who have endured reading my crazy thoughts with some quotes that I feel that everyone, catholic/not, liberal/conservative, student/faculty, and people capable of rational thought, can respect. If you anyone has questions, comments, or concerns, please post them!

    “Government exists to protect us from each other. Where government has gone beyond its limits is in deciding to protect us from ourselves.” -Ronald Reagan

    “No man’s life, liberty, or property are safe while the legislature is in session.” -Mark Twain

    “A man has free choice to the extent that he is rational.” – Thomas Aquinas.

  4. Jordan Thompson

    Honestly, this seems a bit ridiculous to me. I am all for allowing people to live a healthy life-style where ever they are but should that come at the expense of others? Tobacco is not an illegal substance and UST also has a large international community with a large portion being from countries where smoking and tobacco use are common. If the school would like to make school sanctioned events tobacco free that is one thing, but to force students to leave campus to do something that isn’t illegal is not very fair. there are other more fair and effective methods for example if school wanted to limit on campus to smoking areas i feel that to be a better compromise. UST is going to have a great campus atmosphere regardless if there is tobacco use or not so why limit the students’ and visitors’ freedom because there is a small group who is against tobacco use?

  5. Kathleen Hauser

    This would be wonderful for our campus community! However, there also need to be strategies put in place to help out those incoming students who have a nicotine addiction. We don’t want to ram it down prospective students throats that smoking in banned on the UST campuses, but we need to make sure they are aware of it — particularly international students who seem to share the bulk of smoking on campus.

  6. Will Moore

    It would seem that if people were clean about the use of chewing tobacco that its use would be no different than chewing gum. I don’t think that it should be part of the tobacco ban. It produces no smoke and has no second hand hazard like smoking products. I mean it could be compared with eating red meat which is also a health hazard.

    Peace and All Good Things!!!

    Will Moore OFS