MSU OKs Strict Ban On Tobacco

Tobacco’s days are numbered at Montana State University.

More than two dozen campus leaders voted unanimously at Wednesday’s University Council meeting to approve a policy that will ban smoking cigarettes, chewing cigarettes store and all discount cigarette online products starting Aug. 1, 2012.

Once it takes effect, students, employees, guests, conference attendees and contractors won’t be allowed to use tobacco on the Bozeman campus. The ban will apply even in personal cars, at football games, inside or outside of dorms, in university-owned or -leased buildings or on sidewalks running through the Bozeman campus.

The only exception would be public sidewalks along streets not owned by MSU. That appears to include Kagy Boulevard and part of South 11th Avenue, south of Lincoln Street from the MSU Alumni and Foundation building to Kagy. However, Leslie Taylor, MSU chief legal counsel, said she’ll have to research further which streets are public and which are MSU-owned.

“It’s clear to me this is the right thing to do,” said Joey Steffens, student vice president, urging a yes vote. Steffens was a leader of last spring’s referendum, in which 61 percent of student voters endorsed a tobacco ban.

He predicted it will make the Bozeman campus a “safer, cleaner and healthier place.”

MSU President Waded Cruzado said the University Council supported the student-initiated concept of a tobacco ban last May, but waited to vote on the official policy until students and staff returned in the fall so they could be consulted.

John Neumeier, physics professor and Faculty Senate chair-elect, said an email poll of professors got 10 responses supporting the ban, 11 in support but wanting to offer smokers some accommodation and three opposed. Kevin Thane of the Staff Senate said about 60 percent of employees polled were in full support, but there were some reactions like: “I’m 61 years old, I’ve smoked all my life, you can’t make me quit.”

Asked if an employee could be fired for smoking cigarettes, Taylor said the intent is to enforce the ban through education and friendly persuasion.

However, Taylor said if someone refuses to comply with a reasonable order, that could be insubordination and the employee would potentially be subject to discipline or firing.

The next 10 months will be used to educate people about the upcoming ban.

The committee members who worked on the tobacco policy considered setting up a few smoking cigarettes areas to accommodate smokers, Taylor said. But they decided once there was a place to smoke, she said, the university would never get rid of it.

The University of Montana’s tobacco ban took effect this fall and has not had any major problems, Taylor said. Some students sneak out of dorms late at night to smoke, and campus police simply ask them to stop.

“Overall, it’s a surprising success,” Taylor said of UM’s ban.

Jim Mitchell, Student Health Center director, said he supports the ban 100 percent. The most common chronic illness on campus is asthma, Mitchell said, and those students complain of having to walk through clouds of smoke cigarettes from smokers congregated outside the Renne Library, for example. Montana offers free help on its Tobacco Quit Line, which some lawmakers tried to eliminate but the governor “dug in his heels,” Mitchell said.

“This has potential to produce not only a healthier environment, but to help save money from the reduction of health care expenses,” Mitchell said.

Jenny Haubenreiser, director of MSU Health Promotion, said MSU will join about 500 campuses nationwide that are smoke-free, and become the sixth in Montana to go tobacco-free.

MSU’s tobacco ban won’t apply to its sister campuses in Billings, Havre and Great Falls, which get to decide for themselves. However, it will apply to MSU’s agricultural research centers, property and vehicles leased or owned by MSU, and athletic facilities. Tobacco advertising and sponsorship of events or faculty positions will be banned. Tossing cigarette butts on campus will be prohibited.

The only exceptions to the ban will be using tobacco in lab experiments, classroom instruction, or for American Indian cultural or religious ceremonies, if approved in advance by the president’s office.