By Tanner Kent
Free Press Staff Writer
After a lengthy period of consideration, Minnesota State University will become a tobacco-free campus on Jan. 1.
MSU, however, won’t be the first institution in the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities system to enact the tobacco ban.
In 2010, the MnSCU Board of Trustees passed a resolution encouraging campuses to adopt such a policy. Shortly after, South Central College became one of the first to do so and has been followed by a number of others, including Winona State and Minnesota State-Moorhead.
“This is a movement that’s been endorsed by MnSCU,” said Rick Straka, vice president of finance and administration, and author of MSU’s policy. “A growing number of MnSCU institutions are going in this direction.”
The announcement was made Tuesday in an email to students and staff from MSU President Richard Davenport.
The announcement said the policy follows a yearlong discussion that included conversations with students, staff and faculty.
Davenport noted that an exception will be made for students currently living in the residence halls, allowing them to use tobacco outside of their residence halls for the remainder of the 2011-2012 academic year. That exception will expire in May of 2012.
MSU spokesman Michael Cooper said the policy also represents the next step in what has been a long battle with careless smokers who litter their cigarette butts and ignore the current policy of smoking only in the campus’ 28 designated areas.
“We said that if (those measures) didn’t work, we’d go to an entirely smoke-free campus,” Cooper said, adding that the ban includes smokeless varieties of tobacco as well.
The ban applies to students as well as staff and extends to university-owned or -leased vehicles. Signage will be displayed around campus alerting visitors.
Cooper said there is no discipline procedure yet in place for offenders of the new smoking policy and he doesn’t expect anything particularly formal.
“Our advice is to politely point out that the campus is smoke-free,” he said.
An awareness campaign will begin in the near future and will be supported by grant funds from Blue Earth County Public Health in collaboration with the American Lung Association.
Wendy Schuh, director of student health services, said many cessation products are already available over the counter and that campus offices will further provide stop-smoking kits and education materials.