USG backs smoke-free campus with new smoking ban

Students regularly take smoke breaks in between classes around the courtyard between Langdale and the library.  PHOTO BY NADIA DEJOU| THE SIGNAL
Students regularly take smoke breaks in between classes around the courtyard between Langdale and the library.

Georgia State students continue to smoke on campus even though The University System of Georgia (USG) created a policy that would prohibit the use of all tobacco products last March.

Despite USG’s on-campus smoking ban, Georgia State created its own smoking policy in 2012, according to university attorney Kerry Heyward.

“Georgia State University has actually been a tobacco and smoke free campus for almost two years now,” she said.

Georgia State’s Student Code of Conduct (SCC) states smoking and tobacco use of any kind is prohibited on all university property. Smoking is also prohibited within 25 feet of all campus building entrances and exits.

Heyward said Georgia State will take the USG-wide ban as an opportunity to remind the campus of the policy.

“We are going to have better signs and raise awareness and remind the community about our policy through emails, social media [and] signage,” she said.

If a student is caught smoking within 25 feet of a university building, it is considered a violation of University policy, according to Heyward.

“Under the student code of conduct, a student found to be smoking on campus could face charges,” she said. “And faculty and staff could face charges under the employee or disciplinary action under the employee handbook.”

The SCC states Georgia State reserves the right to initiate disciplinary procedures against any individual found to be in continuous violation of this policy.

“Hopefully we have people following the policy more closely,” Heyward said.

USG Human Resources provides mini-grant opportunities to stop smoking:

As a part of the wellness initiative and in support of the new USG Tobacco & Smoke-Free campus policy, the USO HR office accepted mini-grant proposals in the amount of $5,000 for USG institutions to use to promote tobacco cessation for faculty and staff up until Aug 30.

Cheryl Johnson Ransaw, director of wellness services at Georgia State, said the Office of Employee Development and Wellness Services (EDWS) submitted a grant proposal to the USG HR/Total Rewards Office for tobacco cessation targeted at the university’s employees.

Johnson Ransaw also said EDWS partners with Student Health Promotion and the Healthy State Committee to cross promote programs and services for Georgia State employees and students.

“There will be a major campus event on Thursday, Nov. 20 to celebrate Great American Smokeout Day in University Plaza,” she said.

E-cigarettes, hookah pens and vapes:

E-cigarettes, also known as “E-Cigs,” and Vape pens are still classified as tobacco products, according to the USG.

According to the USG tobacco website, “Tobacco Products” are defined as cigarettes, cigars, pipes, all forms of smokeless tobacco, clove cigarettes and any other smoking devices that use tobacco, such as hookahs or simulate the use of tobacco, such as electronic cigarettes.

Kassa Khouzami, transfer student, is not a fan of cigarette smoke but does not see anything wrong with vape pens.

“Banning smoking on campus seems like a violation of students’ rights,” he said. “For universities to enforce a ban instead of coming up with alternatives is quite insensitive.”

Local smoke shops give their view on the smoking ban

Thomas, Georgia State alumnus and owner of Happy Hookah on Peachtree, compared the smoking ban to prohibition in the United States.

He also said he’s witnessed the ban trying to be enforced when he was a student.

“It’s failing miserably,” he said. “How do you stop someone from doing something that is legal?”

He also said the smoking ban will not have an effect on his business.

“One half of the customers are students but this won’t stop them from coming in,” Thomas said.

SGA talks smoking ban

Gregory Lafortune, Student Government Association (SGA) senator of the School of Nursing, said he attended a Tobacco-Free Colleges and Universities summit at the University of Georgia (UGA) on Sept. 19.

“We’re trying to limit the use of tobacco at Georgia State University,” he said of the summit’s goal.

UGA’s event celebrated the tobacco prevention accomplishments taking place on institutions throughout Georgia and other schools, according to the School of Public Health’s flyer.

Lafortune said he understands the new policy will be tough to implement for all universities, especially for Georgia State.

“It’s always been a GSU concern, but because of where we are located and because of the the non traditional students we’re dealing with It has been a big, big, big headache and heartache trying to enforce it,” he said.

Lafortune also said he wants the university community to realize smoking on campus affects everyone. He remains positive that they can successfully ban smoking with the help of USG.

“What I’m realizing is that it’s not something that can be done with SGA alone. It has to be advocated through the whole university and the new USG policy will help,” he said.

“I want to collaborate with other campus groups who want to see this policy enforced,” he continued. “And as a long term goal I want to see Georgia State 100 percent smoke free.”

Lafortune helped form the Smoke-Free Campus Committee, which is comprised of SGA senators.

He said students can voice their concerns at SGA town hall meetings or email him directly.

Sebastian Parra, Vice President of Academic Affairs, said decreasing the number of people smoking at public areas around campus is definitely a priority of their administration.

“The menace of people smoking in public areas is particularly annoying to the student body in front of Library North,” he said. “People do not want to walk around campus and be exposed to smoke being thrown at their face.”

USG’s new smoke-free policy will go into effect Oct. 1

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