Feb. 25, 2009
Contact: Joe Carr at (207) 581-3571
UMAINE SETS TOBACCO-FREE CAMPUS DATE AT JAN. 1, 2011
ORONO — The University of Maine will join the growing list of U.S. colleges and universities to adopt a tobacco-free campus policy, effective Jan. 1, 2011.
Over the next ten months, UMaine will implement an information campaign and begin working with students and employees who wish to break their addiction to tobacco products. During 2011, voluntary compliance will be expected with enforcement to begin on Jan. 1, 2012. University officials will continue to examine policies at other higher education institutions and develop its own enforcement plan over the next year or more.
UMaine announced its plans to move toward this outcome in July 2007, when President Robert Kennedy appointed a committee to determine the university’s readiness to adopt a tobacco-free policy and to examine “best practices” for implementation. Smoking has long been prohibited in UMaine’s buildings, and the new policy will extend that ban to the campus grounds and university property in other parts of Maine, while also encompassing other tobacco and smoking products.
Committee members met with more than 500 people to discuss UMaine tobacco policies and potential changes during this planning and assessment period. Earlier this month, two open community meetings brought further input.
According to the American Nonsmokers’ Rights Foundation (ANRF), there are smoke-free colleges and universities in virtually every state. Arkansas and Iowa have instituted statewide bans at all their public colleges and universities. Other examples include the University of Michigan, the University of Florida, Oklahoma State University, Purdue University and the University of North Dakota. Maine’s only smoke-free institution, according to ANRF, is Kennebec Valley Community College. At least 365 colleges and universities have tobacco-free policies.
Additionally, the American College Health Association (ACHA) issued a September 2009 “no tobacco policy” position statement encouraging colleges and universities nationwide “to be diligent in their efforts to achieve a 100% indoor and outdoor campus-wide tobacco-free environment.”
“A tobacco free environment is a healthier environment,” Kennedy says. “This move will have a positive impact in many ways, including enhanced community life, improved productivity through better health and potential decreases in health care costs. At UMaine, we value our environment and we care about each other. A tobacco-free campus will make the University of Maine a more health place to learn, work and live.”
Kennedy also pointed out that UMaine students and employees have approached him directly, advocating for a tobacco-free policy. Several of the comments he received related to a desire to see less campus litter related to tobacco products.
“We feel that it’s important to show leadership in this area, and to promote a healthy environment that will foster teaching, learning, research and the other elements of the university’s mission,” Kennedy says.
The university has established a series of programs to assist those who wish to break tobacco addictions between now and the implementation date.
“Data tell us that virtually every person addicted to tobacco products really wants to quit,” says UMaine Vice President for Student Affairs and Dean of Students Robert Dana. “We will work diligently with our students and employees to provide all possible assistance as we move through the next ten months. We are supportive of every member of our community — including those who use tobacco products — and we will work together to achieve a good outcome for everybody. The development of effective support networks is critical to making this plan work to its greatest potential.”
Dana says that UMaine will expect compliance with the new policies and will work with repeat violators to achieve behavior modification. Members of the community who use tobacco products are encouraged to begin taking steps to break those addictions so that they will be able to comfortably comply with the policy when it goes into effect.
“Those who find compliance to be difficult should ask for help — either through the HealthyU employee wellness program or the Division of Student Affairs,” Dana says. “Our goal is not to create an adversarial situation for anyone, but rather to provide the resources necessary to help bring everybody in our community to the point where this is no longer an issue.”
More information, including background on issues related to tobacco use, links to useful resources and a Frequently Asked Questions section are all available on the Web at UMaine’s tobacco-free campus website.