UAS Juneau goes smoke-free Wednesday

A ban on all tobacco products goes into effect July 1 on UAS's Juneau campus. (Photo by Lisa Phu/KTOO)
A ban on all tobacco products goes into effect July 1 on UAS’s Juneau campus. (Photo by Lisa Phu/KTOO)

The University of Alaska Southeast campus in Juneau goes completely smoke-free on Wednesday.

UAS will join thousands of colleges nationwide with similar policies banning tobacco use by students, staff and visitors.

No more cigarette, e-cigarette or hookah breaks between classes; the ban applies to all tobacco products. Anyone looking for a nicotine fix will have to leave campus to get it.

The ban is part of a university-wide policy approved in December by the Board of Regents.

The University of Alaska is not alone in adopting a tobacco-free policy. Institutions of higher learning have been banning tobacco on their campuses for years.

UAS Vice Chancellor of Administration Michael Ciri has been following the issue. He says the university is entering the discussion somewhat late.

“But I don’t necessarily think that is a bad thing,” Ciri says. “We were able to learn a lot from other universities that drafted smoke-free policies and, I think, have a better policy for that.”

The regents’ decision to make all University of Alaska campuses tobacco free was primarily to reduce employee healthcare costs.

“When there’s smoking-related illnesses, that is a real, actual cost borne by the University of Alaska. If we pay for fewer employee-related health issues, that provides an immediate savings to the institution,” Ciri says.

The smoking ban will apply to all university property and buildings. Ciri says UAS Facilities Services has been surveying campus to create a simple graphical map.

“We need to be very clear about, OK, actually the property line is right there because if I were a smoker and I am willing to comply with the letter of the law, what I would want to know is, specifically, where’s your property line? Because I’ll stand right on the other side of it,” Ciri says.

Some students have already voiced concern about the university’s enforcement plan, or lack thereof. Like graduating senior Trevor Luedke:

“I think it’s going to be impossible to enforce.”

Administrators admit that enforcement will depend on “the consideration and cooperation of both users and non-users of tobacco.”

In other words, Ciri says, no one will be tasked with enforcing the new policy.

“There’s not going to be a smoking czar or the smoking police going around with little seltzer bottles, hitting people,” Ciri says laughing.

However, Ciri points out that the smoking ban is just one of many conduct policies students are asked to observe. The expectation is that people are going to be courteous.

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