Wed., January 8, 2014 3:58pm (EST)

University System of Georgia Considers Statewide Tobacco Ban
By Orlando Montoya
Updated: 3 months ago

SAVANNAH, Ga.  —  
The Georgia Board of Regents is considering banning smoking at all of its institutions.  Currently, college and universities create their own tobacco policies.  (photo Centers for Disease Control and Prevention)
The Georgia Board of Regents is considering banning smoking at all of its institutions. Currently, college and universities create their own tobacco policies. (photo Centers for Disease Control and Prevention)
The University System of Georgia is looking at banning tobacco use on all of its campuses.

The policy already has taken root at some colleges and universities.

Armstrong Atlantic State University in Savannah is among 20 state colleges and universities with a 100% tobacco-free policy.

Middle school teacher Eric Koonce graduated from Armstrong last summer and was part of the student leadership that pushed the change at the university.

He says while students were divided, he supported the total ban because a partial ban wasn't working.

"We tried to set barriers, that's the thing," Koonce says. "First, the University had areas where you could smoke. And we felt like that wasn't being followed."

He says smokers weren't staying in designated spots.

"Sometimes they don't think it's a big deal," Koonce says. "But I just think be consistent about the rules. Be like, 'Hey, you know, no smoking right here, please.' I'm not saying you have to write anybody a ticket or things like that. But just keep it consistent. Keep it firm."

Arkansas, Iowa and Oklahoma are the only states with a statewide tobacco ban at all public colleges and universities, according to the American Nonsmokers Rights Foundation.

Other states have lengthy lists of tobacco-free campuses, but no top-down mandate.

The foundation's Bronson Frick says such changes typically have sprung from students and faculty.

"Traditionally this issue has had a bottom-up approach," Frick says.

The Regents discussed the ban this week, but they're not scheduled to vote on it until next month.

If approved, the ban would go into effect July first.

Armstrong public health professor Sara Plaspohl says if other schools are to implement the ban successfully, they'll need buy-in from all parties.

"I think in our situation, it was critical," Plaspohl says. "I think that we had leadership within the student government, within the faculty, within staff and most importantly, with our administration."

A total ban means no smoking, even at sporting events and in dorms and cars.