KU group wants tobacco-free campus by fall 2015 - KCTV5

KU group wants tobacco-free campus by fall 2015

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An effort is underway to ban smoking and other forms of tobacco from the University of Kansas campus.

The student group Breathe Easy at KU and several university departments are sponsoring the Tobacco FreeKU initiative, the Lawrence Journal-World reports.

"Our ultimate goal is to create a culture change on campus," said Ashley Hrabe, a KU senior and founder of Breathe Easy at KU. "Not only is it going to affect the current students on campus, if the policy were to come into place it not only affects future students, it affects community habits as well."

Tobacco Free KU said in an October progress report that the efforts started in spring 2013, when student and faculty surveys gauged opinions about the possibility of a tobacco-free campus. The University Senate passed a resolution encouraging the Student Senate to develop a more restrictive smoking policy. KU got a $25,000 grant from the Kansas Health Foundation to help research the viability of going tobacco-free.

The university already bans cigarettes and e-cigarettes inside or near campus building. You have to be at least 20 feet from any doorway to smoke. The initiatives' goal is to expand the ban campus-wide by fall 2015.

More than 1,400 campuses nationwide are now smoke-free, with 975 of those fully tobacco-free, according to October numbers from the Tobacco Free College Campus Initiative. A growing number — now 292 — also prohibit e-cigarette use anywhere on campus.

Hrabe said she is hoping Tobacco Free KU efforts can create "positive change" by making people think differently, even though she knows the group won't be able to change everyone's minds. She told KCTV5 that KU is becoming more green and more healthy, and this policy is needed.

"I feel like it's time," Hrabe said.

The Lawrence-Douglas County Health Department is one off-campus organization with representatives on Tobacco Free KU committees. Community health planner Charlie Bryan said the health department sees the effort primarily as a human resources issue.

"A lot of employers are considering being tobacco free," he said. "It's increasingly an area where employers are recognizing the cost of tobacco use, not only in health but in the loss of productivity."

But the idea has divided students. The university is asking for student feedback.

"It's bad enough I'm killing myself but now I won't be allowed to kill myself 20 feet away from a building," James Russell said.

Others said smokers are adults who should be able to make their own decisions about smoking. Rhabe maintains that the university has programs to help students quit smoking.

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