On January 9, 2013, our Board of Regents unanimously passed a resolution directing the administration to develop and implement a tobacco-free campus policy. I want to inform you of the reasons for the Board’s decision and the progress made to date.
There are a number of health, economic, and productivity reasons our University is transitioning toward a tobacco-free environment.
First, the University is committed to supporting an environment that is clean, healthy, and safe for all our students, employees, and visitors. Tobacco use remains the single-most preventable cause of death and disease in the United States, and research shows that tobacco use in any form, active or passive, constitutes a health hazard. We have both a responsibility and an opportunity to protect the health of all campus constituents.
Second, the economic burden affiliated with tobacco use is significant. The direct and indirect costs, which include health care expenditures and litter maintenance, add up quickly. We are leaders in our community, and we should demonstrate fiscal responsibility.
Third, the tobacco industry heavily targets college students. The industry spends $41 million per day promoting their products. I think it is appropriate for us to educate our students about the risks of becoming addicted to tobacco.
For these and other reasons, the American College Health Association has adopted a “no tobacco use” policy, encouraging colleges and universities to be diligent in their efforts to achieve campus-wide tobacco-free environments. Our University, which began restricting campus smoking to designated smoking areas in 2006, joins a list of more than 1,130 US colleges and universities with smoke- or tobacco-free policies in place. Among Kentucky’s public institutions, we are the third university to implement a tobacco-free policy. The University of Kentucky went tobacco-free in November 2009, and Morehead State University did so in June 2011, but has since permitted limited smoking areas. The University of Louisville is a smoke-free campus.
Becoming a tobacco-free campus doesn’t happen overnight. But I am pleased to report that we have already made progress. I have selected Ms. Karen Campbell, director of wellness, Dr. Jeffrey Waple, dean of students, and Dr. Steven Weiss, professor, Communication Studies, to co-chair a Tobacco-Free Policy Task Force to develop recommendations for the transition. Their breadth and depth of knowledge of our campus constituencies makes them well suited to lead this initiative. The task force will be comprised of five subcommittees that report to an Advisory Council. I invite you to learn more about the operational framework and charges of the task force and subcommittees at http://tobaccofree.nku.edu. Appointments to these subcommittees will be made shortly, along with recommendations for campus constituents to serve. If you have suggestions, please contact Jeff, Karen, or Steve directly.
Finally, on February 25, a national expert on tobacco-free policies will be on our campus. Ty Patterson is executive director of the National Center for Tobacco Policy (http://www.tobaccofreenow.org ). Through a grant obtained by the Health Foundation of Greater Cincinnati, we will host a community breakfast forum in the Student Union Ballroom. Registration details are attached. Mr. Patterson will be available to work directly with our task force in the afternoon, as we begin the process of transitioning toward becoming a tobacco-free campus.
Geoffrey S. Mearns
Northern Kentucky University
800 Lucas Administrative Center
Highland Heights, KY 41099