Meeting as a committee of the whole Tuesday, the University System of Georgia’s Board of Regents voted unanimously for the ban with little discussion.
“I’ve gotten no negative feedback and several calls supporting this,” Chairman Philip Wilheit said.
The ban will apply not only to faculty, staff and students, but also to visitors – including football fans, contractors and subcontractors, said Marion Fedrick, the system’s vice chancellor for human resources, who explained the reasons for the policy before the vote.
The ban also will apply to buildings and spaces owned, leased or used by University System colleges and universities, including parking lots.
“The University System of Georgia is committed to provide a healthful and comfortable workplace,” she said. “Our policy is really focused on stopping tobacco usage.”
Some 1,100 college campuses nationwide have already banned tobacco, and research has shown such bans are effective in reducing the number of people who smoke, Fedrick said.
About a dozen public colleges already ban smoking. Gainesville State College, now part of the University of North Georgia, was the first in 2003. The University of North Georgia’s Dahlonega campus outlawed tobacco in 2007, and several others have followed since. The University of Georgia allows smoking but bars it inside buildings, per state law, and within 35 feet of entrances.
The ban will save the state money, Fedrick said. The system spends about $2.4 million annually for health insurance claims directly related to tobacco.
“We’re spending a lot of money on a relatively small population,” she said.
About 2,600 university system workers have self-identified as smokers, and based on national surveys of people between ages 18 and 24, as much as 18.9 percent of the system’s students could be smokers. The percentage could be lower because people with more education are less likely to use tobacco.
As the policy is implemented, the system will help students and workers who want to quit, including using nicotine-replacement therapy, online tools and connections to a state Department of Public Health Quit Line.
College and university presidents will be responsible for enforcing the ban, which will be part of human resources policies and student conduct codes. They will also be responsible for defining exceptions to the ban.