Tobacco-free implementation preparation starts

(WITH VIDEO) – In preparation for Murray State’s new tobacco-free policy scheduled to go into effect next August, ash trays around campus were moved 25 feet away from buildings’ entrances this week and smokers were told they had to move with them.

President Davies, backed by the Tobacco-Free Implementation Steering Committee, Davies’ council for drafting the University’s tobacco policy, has proposed certain aspects of the policy go into effect prior to the policy’s adoption in an effort to acclimate students, faculty and staff to some of the impending rule changes.

Catherine Sivills, a member of the Tobacco-Free Implementation Steering Committee, said smoking will no longer be allowed within 25 feet of buildings’ entrances upon returning from Spring Break on March 15. Several smoking hot spots around campus, she said, such as the Zen garden, will also be designated as tobacco-free zones.

“This is a new culture shift for our campus,” Sivills said. “So we want to kind of ease ourselves into the policy and give others the opportunity to share their concerns.”

President Davies will introduce the terms of the tobacco policy to the Board of Regents at their next meeting on Feb. 27 as mandated by the board at their December meeting.

At the board’s December meeting, Davies and the committee were also instructed to begin getting the campus ready to go tobacco-free and to begin implementing parts of the policy now.

The board will either accept the policy as is at their February meeting, or recommend changes be made to it before its adoption.

Although the board has already voted that Murray State will be tobacco-free starting next semester, issues, such as the exact date the policy will go into effect and how those violating the tobacco-free policy will be disciplined, are still up for discussion.

As it is currently worded in Davies’ recommended tobacco policy, “employees violating this policy will be reported to their appropriated supervisor and students will be reported to the Office of Student Affairs as with any infraction to Murray State’s rules and regulations.”

Sivills said the committee and Davies do not want to administer punitive disciplines for violating the policy, such as giving out tickets, unless absolutely necessary.

“The campaign is called ‘You Matter’,” she said. “We want it to be very positive. We’re doing this for the health of our staff, faculty and students as well as the visitors.”

Not all constituencies, however, agree with this mentality. When Davies visited the Student Government Association to introduce the policy’s terms, some members voiced their concern that without the threat of a fine, smokers will not adhere to the new policy.

Michael Dobbs, president of SGA and a member of the Tobacco-Free Implementation Steering Committee, said he doesn’t believe there will ever be full compliance to the tobacco policy on campus regardless of the punishment. However, he said the most important factors in achieving compliance are patience and education.

“The key is to educate everyone on the effects of smoking and why it was decided to establish a tobacco policy,” Dobbs said. “The idea is to have the best interest of the health of the students, faculty and staff in mind and convey to them the importance of being role models and adhering to the policy even if they don’t want to.”

Along with SGA, Davies has shared his draft of the policy with Faculty Senate, Staff Congress and students at a town hall-style meeting. The draft is also available to be read online on the Murray State website.

To date, Davies said he has received many comments about his draft, suggesting changes and improvements as well as whether there should be a tobacco policy at all.

“The board’s passed it,” he said. “The board has basically said we’re moving in this direction and we are. Moving people 25 feet away from doors and intake valves is a common practice and it’s something we can do quicker than not.”

“It’s about being courteous to all faculty, staff and students,” Davies said. “People have the choice to smoke and others have the choice not to. I don’t want to see this as an iron fist ruling, but rather it be about being a good neighbor and being respectful.”

Story by Ben Manhanke, Chief Videographer