Smoking tobacco products on the campus of the University of Central Arkansas will be against state law for students, staff, visitors and faculty, effective July 1.
That is one month ahead of the required date of Act 734 of the General Assembly of the State of Arkansas, which is Aug. 1.
The Arkansas Clean Air on Campus Act of 2009, the bill states, is an act to protect students, employees, and visitors at state-supported institutions of higher education from secondhand smoke on campus.
Jack Gillean, chief of staff at the university said at a November 2009 meeting of the Board of Trustees, a resolution was approved to enact the law one month earlier, to begin the first day of the fiscal year.
“The state law requires us to be in this position no later than Aug. 1,” he said. “We chose to make ours July 1 because state deadline was no later than that, and it’s a good transition for us into the fiscal year. Aug. 1 is an arbitrary date and students will not be on campus until the middle of August.”
Those not complying with the July 1 date adopted by the university will be subject to a fine.
The Act states, “Any person who violates any provision of this subchapter is guilty of a violation and upon conviction shall be punished by a fine of not less than $100 and no more than $500.”
Gillean said the university went a step further with the tobacco ban and included smokeless tobacco as well.
“What’s unique about our policy — state law didn’t require it but consistent with our previous policy — in addition to preventing smoking on campus, it also prevents the use of smokeless tobacco,” Gillean said.
The use of smokeless tobacco was previously not allowed in school buildings, stadiums or university vehicles.
“We have prohibited the use of it campus-wide, in addition to the smoking ban on July 1,” Gillean said.
Gillean said there is no criminal penalty for the use of smokeless tobacco on university property, and those in violation will be informed of university policy, and will “hopefully comply.”
The ban includes all campus property, as well as property on campus grounds, such as personal vehicles.
“We anticipate that will be a difficult enforcement issue, but technically it is on campus property. The way the law reads is that smoking is prohibited completely. Technically, they’d have to leave the property to smoke. That includes sitting in parking lots in their own cars,” Gillean said. “I acknowledge that enforcement is a touchy and difficult one.”
Lt. Rhonda Swindle of the UCA Police Department said the department plans to use an “educational method” to help transition students, faculty and staff into the new law.
Swindle said the department will issue warnings, keep a record of those warnings, and then will issue citations to repeat offenders.
“We’re going to try to be lenient in the beginning, and educational. Everyone’s been told but we’ll have to remind them in an educational type of format,” Swindle said.
Gillean said an effort has been made by the university to ready faculty, staff and students over the last several months by way of smoking cessation classes.
“We’ll continue those into the fall as well,” Gillean said. “I’m told those classes were not well attended but we’ve been advertising that this change would occur. And we will offer the classes when the fall term begins in hopes those who have not gone, will, and will be successful in kicking the habit, if you will.”
The University of Arkansas updated its policy to ban smoking within 25 feet of public building entrances, to ban tobacco use campus-wide in July of 2008, according to the U of A website. The University of Arkansas Community College at Morrilton also prohibits smoking on campus.
Arkansas State-Beebe is a tobacco-free campus, with a policy banning the use of smokeless tobacco as well.
(Staff writer Courtney Spradlin can be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 505-1236. To comment on this and other stories in the Log Cabin, log on to www.thecabin.net. Send us your news at www.thecabin.net/submit)