Imagine a member of the University System of Georgia’s Board of Regents issued this proposal:
“Henceforth, any student, staff member or visitor on any of the state’s 31 public college campuses would have permission to spew, into the air, unlimited amounts of formaldehyde, arsenic, benzene, asbestos and dozens of other known cancer-causing agents all over campus – in every classroom, dorm room, dining hall and library.”
You’d probably think that regent was out of his mind. If anything, you’d want someone to propose the exact opposite.
Which is precisely what Regent Thomas Hopkins is proposing.
Dr. Hopkins, an orthopedic surgeon, is calling for a ban of all tobacco products on every campus in Georgia. His reasoning isn’t hard to figure out. Those chemicals we listed above are some of the more than 4,000 substances found in tobacco smoke – almost none of which are 100-percent safe to breathe.
Smoking already is banned inside facilities that are owned or leased by the state of Georgia. Dr. Hopkins’ proposal would extend the ban to outdoor areas.
“I think it is the wave of the future,” Regents Chairman Philip Wilheit told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “I think as regents we have a responsibility to our students to do what’s best for them and their health.”
“They can do what they want, but they can’t do it on our campuses,” Dr. Hopkins said.
They can’t do it on other campuses, either. Policies prohibit smoking on public college campuses in Arkansas, Oklahoma and Iowa. In Georgia, private school Emory University has instituted a campus-wide smoking ban.
Last year, the Ohio Board of Regents unanimously approved a resolution recommending that each board of trustees in Ohio’s university system consider implementing its own tobacco-free campus policy. Miami University in Ohio already is tobacco-free.
According to the University System of Ohio, in 2006 an estimated 34 colleges and universities nationwide were 100-percent smoke-free; as of July 2012 that figure rose to 774 campuses.
It’s at least 775 now – in August, the second of Georgia Regents University’s two Augusta campuses went smoke-free.
Georgia’s nonsmoking college students should have a reasonable expectation that if they’re frequenting a public campus to seek a quality education they shouldn’t have to endure someone’s hazardous habit that is inherently dangerous to people’s health.
According to a spring survey conducted by the American College Health Association, not even 14 percent of students reported smoking cigarettes in the previous 30 days. That means about 86 percent of students have the right idea: Just don’t smoke.
Here’s a phrase we’ll bet you’ve never heard before: “You know what we need more of? Secondhand smoke.” We’ll also bet you’ll never hear the phrase again, because foul-smelling secondhand smoke is such a widely accepted detriment.
Dr. Hopkins said he would like the regents to take up his proposal early next year. The sooner, the better.