The University of Georgia has a reputation for academic excellence. In a list of 100 public universities, UGA was ranked as the #10 college by Kiplinger, based on low amounts of student loan debt at graduation and numerous opportunities for students to get financial aid. Students at UGA have numerous opportunities to be true world changers, working to annihilate world hunger through agriculture projects and fight climate change and disease through scientific research. This university seems to be opening doors for many people to continue their education and finally earn a degree, but there is one fact about UGA that might surprise you. Until now, this university was the only remaining educational institute in Athens where you could legally smoke a cigarette. However, smokers won’t be lighting up on campus for much longer.
The state’s Board of Regents has decided to take action and make smoking prohibition a priority by launching a new “Tobacco and Smoke-Free Campus Policy”. If the initiative passes, it would ban the use of all tobacco products at the University of Georgia, along with 29 other colleges and universities. Along with outlawing tobacco cigarettes, the policy would prohibit the use of cigars, smokeless tobacco, hookah, pipes, clove cigarettes, and possibly even electronic cigarettes, which are totally tobacco-free.
The ban would extend beyond indoor use and make it illegal to use these products anywhere on university campuses. That would include parking lots, dorms, athletic fields, and even properties owned by the universities and leased to businesses or residences. In fact, if the new policy passes, you cannot even smoke a cigarette in your car if you are parked anywhere on campus. Everyone would be subject to the ban, including students, faculty, campus visitors, and even private contractors doing work on university-owned land.
In the past ten years, Georgia has taken a rather aggressive approach to banning tobacco use. Gainesville State College was the first to completely ban smoking in 2003, but many other public institutions quickly followed suit. Piedmont College banned tobacco use in 2007 followed by Athens Technical College in 2009. Smoking bans then moved from schools to other public buildings like Georgia libraries and hospitals. The Clark County School District even banned possession of tobacco products on the premises. Whether you are smoking or not, you cannot even have a pack of cigarettes in your bag or in your car at the Clark County schools.
So far, UGA is the only public school that still allows smoking on campus. In 2011, the university banned smoking within 35 feet of entrances, but the rest of the campus was fair game for tobacco users. The UGA Athletic Association eventually decided to ban tobacco use at sporting events, but overall, students and faculty still had a fair amount of freedom to use tobacco products as long as they stuck to the designated areas.
With the new tobacco ban, UGA would be forced to adopt a strict and total ban. The fact that the policy could prohibit electronic cigarettes is the most devastating part of it all. While no one would argue that tobacco use is good, it’s hard to believe that policy makers would also ban smoke-free, tobacco-free e-cigarettes because these are the very products that could encourage smokers to finally kick the habit. By banning e-cigs along with tobacco products, it really doesn’t give people a fair chance to realistically stop using tobacco.
Do you agree with the proposed smoking ban on Georgia’s public university property? Should e-cigarettes be exempt from the policy?