The University System of Georgia's (USG) new policy that prohibits the use of tobacco products at all 31 member institutions, goes into effect Oct. 1. While the University of North Georgia (UNG) previously restricted tobacco use, the USG policy calls for a complete ban, including parking lots, residence halls and athletics facilities.
The policy will apply to all employees, students, contractors, subcontractors, and visitors and is applicable 24 hours a day, seven days a week at all USG campuses. Also, all events hosted by a USG-entity or on behalf of the USG shall be tobacco and smoke-free, according to the policy.
The USG policy follows the lead of more than half of all USG institutions that already were tobacco and/or smoke free, including UNG.
"I'm proud of the fact that in 2003 the Gainesville Campus was the first college campus in Georgia and only the third in the nation to go tobacco-free," said Dr. Al Panu, senior vice president for university affairs. "We are dedicated to protecting the health and well-being of our faculty, staff, students and those who visit our university."
The new USG policy aligns with the UNG Strategic Plan to promote the physical and mental well-being of students, faculty, and staff, according to Dr. Janet Marling, acting vice president of student affairs.
"We understand this policy will be a significant change for those who use tobacco products and UNG will provide support for cessation through the Student Counseling Center, the Student Health Center, and Human Resources and to individuals who are not ready to quit but who wish to respectfully abide by the policy," Marling said. "As an institution, we want everyone to take ownership of the policy enforcement as we shift to a healthier environment for everyone on all four of our campuses."
The ban applies to all tobacco products, including smokeless tobacco and e-cigarettes. The policy includes use in vehicles on campus, as well.
"The ban will help promote overall health for the entire UNG community. It's no secret that tobacco products aren't good for your health, and being tobacco-free means we will have healthier and cleaner campuses," said Sarah Williams, health educator and coordinator of the smoking cessation program within Student Health Services.
While each institution's president is charged with enforcing the policy, the USG policy notes that it is also a shared community responsibility. Violations of the policy will be handled under the Student Code of Conduct or university human resource policies. Visitors refusing to comply with the policy may be asked to leave campus.
"Our intent is to work with students to be sure they understand the new changes and have the resources needed to comply," said Alyson Paul, dean of students in Dahlonega. "However, if and when necessary, we will address repeat violations through the student conduct process."
UNG will provide services to students in order to assist in the new policy. Williams said UNG offers nicotine replacement therapy options and educational brochures with quit plans and tips for success. Also, the week of Nov. 17 is Quit Week, which promotes tobacco cessation, sponsored by Peer Health Educators. The Great American Smokeout, a national campaign, is Thursday, Nov. 20 and Peer Health Educators challenge students to go 24 hours without tobacco for the event.
In the 2014 report from the Surgeon General, Assistant Secretary for Health and Safety Howard Koh stated, "Cigarette smoking remains the chief preventable killer in America, with more than 40 million Americans caught in a web of tobacco dependence."
Employee resources for tobacco cessation can be found on the USG Workplace Wellness website at http://www.usg.edu/wellness.