NMSU expects to consider tobacco-free policy this fall – Las Cruces Sun-News

By Lindsey Anderson

landerson@lcsun-news.com @l_m_anderson on Twitter

LAS CRUCES >> New Mexico State University is developing a policy to be completely tobacco-free, but officials won’t quite meet a deadline set by a state Senate resolution urging all colleges to enact such rules.

The Senate passed a resolution in 2013 requiring all New Mexico colleges and universities to have a tobacco-free policy in place by July 1, 2014 or to explain why they do not.

“We’re making progress and we expect to have it completed sometime in the fall,” said NMSU associate public health professor Susan Wilson, who has been a central part of the policy’s development.

Wilson expects a policy to be in place in September or October, though it would not take effect until Jan. 1, 2015.

At least one council of university administrators must approve the resolution before it heads to President Garrey Carruthers’ desk, Wilson said. Carruthers can then decide whether to refer it to the board of regents for consideration.

The most recent draft of a policy would prohibit the use of any tobacco products on all university-owned or leased property across the state. Cigarettes, cigars, chewing tobacco and electronic cigarettes would all be banned, though tobacco-cessation products would be allowed.

The policy would apply to visitors, students and staff alike.

The policy would rely on bystanders to approach smokers and ask them to comply with the ban. Repeated infractions, however, “may be grounds for more serious disciplinary action in accordance with employee and student conduct policies,” according to the draft. It does not specify what that disciplinary action could be.

An email survey of more than 2,600 NMSU students, faculty and staff found more than 70 percent believe the university has a responsibility to promote tobacco-free policies. More than 88 percent think the university should ensure smoke-free air is available to breathe.

But support diminishes when it comes to banning all tobacco products.

More than half of faculty and staff agree with establishing a tobacco-free campus, while 48 percent of students do.

Associated Students of NMSU President Wes Jackson said many students feel NMSU should better enforce its current smoking policy before implementing a new one.

Smoking is currently prohibited indoors or within 25 feet of entrances, exits, walkways and ventilation systems. Chewing tobacco and e-cigarettes are not addressed.

“We felt that the university should enforce that rather than basically have a new policy that they’ve said they can’t enforce,” Jackson said.

The ASNMSU Senate passed a resolution against a tobacco-free proposal this past school year.

Educating the NMSU community on the dangers of tobacco will be key to ensuring a ban’s success, Wilson said.

NMSU has distributed pamphlets on the economic and health costs of using tobacco, as well as the benefits of becoming tobacco-free — such as supporting those who are trying to quit smoking and limiting people’s exposure to carcinogens.

Officials will reach out to ASNMSU, students and other groups on campus to encourage them to support the tobacco-free proposal, Wilson said.

Lindsey Anderson can be reached at 575-541-5462.

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