Tobacco Free FAQ

UNK already requires people to use tobacco products outside and away from building entrances. Why is that requirement insufficient?

A tobacco-free campus emphasizes the health of all students, faculty, and staff. Tobacco is proven to cause long-lasting health risks among its users and those around them. Eliminating tobacco use on campus will promote the health of all those who use our campus. The university has already made a commitment to health of students, faculty, and staff by constructing a new wellness center and offering many wellness classes. going tobacco-free shows the sincerity of that commitment. While UNK has an existing tobacco policy, research has shown, not only on our campus, but on others, that a limited tobacco policy is difficult to enforce due to confusion (ie- can you chew tobacco in buildings? is it 20 or 30 feet from the building? is it okay to snort tobacco in class?). As well, individuals who would attempt to enforce any limited policy can sometimes feel powerless to do so as they may feel unsure as to what is allowable. A tobacco-free policy simplifies it all and makes it clear that no tobacco is allowed to be used on campus.

Where does marijuana fall I all this, should Nebraska someday legalize it?

UNK currently has a substance abuse policy, in which the use of marijuana is prohibited. As for whether or not Nebraska should someday legalize marijuana, that’s a question for your state senator.

As an employee who is severely allergic to cigarette smoke, I would benefit from a tobacco free campus. It is difficult walking in an out of buildings if smokers are by the doors. If you try to avoid it, there’s still a chance the smoke will blow your way. Also, there are times when smoke comes in through the air handler that is connected to my office. When that happens, I have to leave my area until it clears, hoping that I haven’t been exposed to enough that I start to have major problems.

A tobacco-free campus emphasizes the health of all students, faculty, and staff. Many times when addressing issues surrounding tobacco use, many people focus on the restrictions policies place on the tobacco user and neglect to focus on all individuals and how it impacts our campus community. In short, there are two sides to every issue and a tobacco-free campus focuses of the health and wellness of all.

Not enforceable. Policy has no teeth. The rules we have now are not enforced (for example, can’t smoke within xxx feet of an entrance. I see people smoking directly outside the door).

While UNK has an existing tobacco policy, research has shown, not only on our campus, but on others, that a limited tobacco policy is difficult to enforce due to confusion (ie- can you chew tobacco in buildings? is it 20 or 30 feet from the building? is it okay to snort tobacco in class?). As well, individuals who would attempt to enforce any limited policy can sometimes feel powerless to do so as they may feel unsure as to what is allowable. A tobacco-free policy simplifies it all and makes it clear that no tobacco is allowed to be used on campus.

When thinking through policies, we must ask ourselves why these policies are being put in place. Why don’t we allow guns of campus even though it is a constitutional right to bear arms? Why don’t we allow alcohol on campus even though many individuals are over 21? Why don’t we allow candles to be burned in the residence hall rooms although it’s considered a private residence?

Policies are put in place because we are thinking about the environment and the greater good of everyone. As a university, we figure out ways to enforce policies that we think are important. In the same way, in any policy that is developed, the policy-makers must consider what the best ways to enforce a tobacco free campus will be. When looking at our peer institutions and over 1,100 other universities that have gone tobacco or smoke free, it is good to borrow from them as to how they enforce such policies. If other universities can do it, why can’t we? WE CAN AT UNK! 

I am concerned with the smoking on the campus b/c if the students or faculty are smoking outside by the cold air intake the smoke is coming inside the building making everything smell and on top of that if a student is highly allergic to smoke they cannot get away from it and as for me I personal start getting sick when I get 2nd hand smoke and a lot of it. I am a custodian here at the university and I start getting headaches and plugged and start getting sick the instant I smell it and I cannot get away from it regardless if they are sitting outside smoking or by the cold air intake. I do not like to be around 2nd hand smoke and would love for this campus to be smoke free!

A tobacco-free campus emphasizes the health of all students, faculty, and staff. Many times when addressing issues surrounding tobacco use, many people focus on the restrictions policies place on the tobacco user and neglect to focus on all individuals and how it impacts our campus community. In short, there are two sides to every issue and a tobacco-free campus focuses of the health and wellness of all.

While many of us may be aware of the threat that second-hand smoke poses, third-hand smoke has an increased risk due to a lack of public knowledge. In simple terms, third-hand smoke is the residue left behind on surfaces such as walls, floors, counter tops, and furniture after a person has smoked in the area. While policies are in place that put restrictions on tobacco users, the negative impact that tobacco use has on the UNK campus has lasting effects for both the user and non-user. Again a 100% tobacco-free campus is about the health and well-being of all.

I am not a smoker and do not like being around smoke. The idea of a tobacco free campus is appealing; however, I wonder about the realities of such a policy. Have we considered our campus guests who pay for tickets to theatre and athletic events? As long as the “intermission and half-time smokers” are outdoors and not affecting others, do we care that they step outside for a smoke? I would hate for someone to not attend an event on campus because they cannot make it two or three hours without a cigarette. I also wonder about enforcement. Who will be the tobacco police? I would imagine employees and guests will be smoking in their cars in parking lots across campus. Will they be stopped? If so, by whom? I do not know what the right decision is–smoke-free campus or not–so I urge those considering the policy to carefully consider all potential consequences before deciding.

In the same way that we ask visitors to respect our current policies, and in the same way that businesses and vendors in Kearney ask visitors to their respect policies regardless of them being paying customers, we would ask visitors to continue to respect the policies of UNK. Any policy that is developed must consider a number of issues and concerns, and the university’s policy makers can draw from the over 1,100 universities that have already addressed these issues and concerns in their tobacco-free policies. When considering half-time and intermission smokers, it is being assumed that those smokers are not affecting anyone negatively. However one ought think about the following:

  • While many of us may be aware of the threat that second-hand smoke poses, third-hand smoke has an increased risk due to a lack of public knowledge. In simple terms, third-hand smoke is the residue left behind on surfaces such as walls, floors, counter tops, and furniture after a person has smoked in the area.
  • Guests may want to get fresh air during half-time or intermission, but avoid doing so because of the second-hand smoke in the area.
  • The image of the university can be impacted by the by products of tobacco use such as cigarette butts, spit, and smell. Some individuals visit the university with children, the elderly, those with medical issues, and those that are allergic to tobacco and want to be in a safe and healthy environment. These individuals must be considered when thinking of a 2-3 hour event as well. We must also think about the individuals who do not attend events because they want to avoid being exposed to second and third hand tobacco use. In the end, the movement toward a 100% tobacco-free UNK is about respect for the health and well-being of all.

Policies are put in place because we are thinking about the environment and the greater good of everyone. As a university, we figure out ways to enforce policies that we think are important. In the same way, in any policy that is developed, the policy-makers must consider what the best ways to enforce a tobacco free campus will be. When looking at our peer institutions and over 1,100 other universities that have gone tobacco or smoke free, it is good to borrow from them as to how they enforce such policies. If other universities can do it, why can’t we? WE CAN AT UNK!

How will this policy affect chewing tobacco users living on campus, since there room on campus is there place of residence while attending classes?

UNK’s current policy does not allow any tobacco use in any building owned by the university, so while students my have it on their person  they already are asked not to use tobacco in any UNK building.  Therefore the policy does not change much in that respect. However this is something that must be considered in any policy that is developed and our recommendation based on the nature of our campus is that the use of tobacco be prohibited not necessarily the possession of tobacco products.

You guys are crazy. You do realize that even if majority vote comes up in your favor you aren’t gonna keep people from smoking on campus. What are you gonna do? Have campus security running around all over campus day in day out watching every nook and cranny of the campus to make sure no one is sneaking a cigarette? Or do it in their cars?

I think too many individuals are speculating far in advance what the policy will entail when the details of such a policy have yet to be established.

UNKPD will most likely not even be a part of the enforcement piece but that’s for the administration to decide. Over 1,100 Universities have made this move and have done so successfully. I feel that UNK can borrow from schools such as Ohio State and Pitt State and make something work. Both have policies that work well and are self-enforcement, no fines, etc.

We understand that people look at this and think, it can never happen, and that there is no way people will respect this…and you are right, there will be some that will choose to break the policy in the same way those people break the alcohol policy, light candles in their rooms, bring guns on campus, write on the side walk with chalk without permission, etc. but the vast majority of individuals have respect for the system.  When establishing a policy like this one, the vast majority of the UNK community,(who by the way, no one until recently has made it a point to defend their actual right, not choice, to live, learn and work in a safe and healthy environment), will be empowered to actually speak up because the rules are clear. 100% Tobacco-Free.   A policy has yet to be discussed fully and all of these issues I am sure will be taken into consideration.

We appreciate your feedback but we want to assure you that we have researched this issue for two years and asked the same questions, and we sought and seek answers from the more than 1,100 hundred colleges and universities that made this transition. Many of our peer institutions are part of that 1,100. So while many think we can’t at UNK, we like to think that We Can.

Why the ultimatum and not a compromise? It seems that you are more likely to get a healthier/happier campus if you worked a compromise out with smokers/nonsmokers rather than just calling for a vote to ban it entirely. Just a question I have been pondering. I am a non-smoker, I don’t like smoking but I am not exactly willing to take away another’s attempt at staying stress free and feel there are other options that are being overlooked.

I also feel that if we take a step towards being ‘Health Guardians’ for everyone with or without their choice that we will just become extreme. The next act will be taking away soda/sweets on campus because they are bad for students too. Yes, extreme, but that is how I see this current vote: extreme.

Part of the answer in short is that research has shown that universities that have made compromises in their policies later stated that they wished they would have chosen to go 100% tobacco free as partial policies create confusion on a number of levels. 100% is a clear and simple for everyone, making it easier to help create a healthier campus rather than a semi healthy campus.

I think many people get caught up in the tobacco users’ choice and neglect the fact that in doing so they ignore an actual right that everyone has to learn and work in an environment that is safe and healthy. So the statement,

“more likely to get a healthier/happier campus”

is an assumption whereas factual data supports that any tobacco use is not healthy to the user, those around the user, and the environment. I would encourage you to read through the rights section on our site.

In addition to the research that has found tobacco to be harmful, our research as well as many other universities’ research, shows that most students would prefer a 100% tobacco free campus. With these facts we can say with validity, borrowing from your statement, that “it is more likely to get a healthier/happier campus if we went tobacco-free as most students prefer this.”

One thing that has become evident to us as this process goes on is how little individuals understand about tobacco and what it does to the body and the environment. You are concerned with taking away others’ attempt to stay stress free.

1. We are not attempting to take that away, we are asking that it not be done on campus. Much in the same way that many students want to drink alcohol to stay stress free but the University prohibits the use and possession of alcohol on its grounds, even if you are of age.

2. Research into smoking and stress has shown that, instead of helping people to relax, smoking actually increases anxiety and tension. Nicotine creates an immediate sense of relaxation so people smoke in the belief that it reduces stress and anxiety. This feeling of relaxation is temporary and soon gives way to withdrawal symptoms and increased cravings. Smoking reduces nicotine withdrawal symptoms, which are similar to the symptoms of anxiety, but it does not reduce anxiety or deal with the underlying causes. Our true concern should be focused on how to help these individuals overcome their addictions in order to help them live lives that are a bit less stressful and a lot healthier for themselves and others. If they choose that they do not want the help, that’s their choice, a university should not accommodate that addiction as they would not for an alcohol, it should seek to assist that student in quitting, not encouraging the behavior.

Soda/sweets? Think on what you are stating. Universities have a responsibility to provide a safe, respectful and healthy environment so that the members of that community can succeed. If the use of soda and sweets posed risks or potential risk to the university community, it would be the responsibility of that university to minimize or eliminate that risk. A person can have a soda or eat a piece of cake and that in itself is not harmful to others and with proper diet and education is not necessarily unhealthy for the individual consuming those items.

However, consider alcohol, in itself in proper amounts is not unhealthy, and if you are of age is not illegal, yet it is not allowed on campus. Why is that? Consider guns, which we have our 2nd amendment right to bear arms, they are not allowed on campus. Why is that? It is because of the risks or potential risks they pose on the UNK Community. Under the Rights/freedom section on this website you will see an explanation as to why universities restrict alcohol and guns. This is done for the safety and wellbeing of the campus community.

CHOICE: that’s why there is a vote, so students can choose what they want to happen next. We had enough statistical data that was valid and strong to create a proposal and bypass the voting process, but it was our decision to empower students to make a choice as to what happens next.

One must not forget that when we do not make changes that will create an environment of respect for others and the environment, and for the greater health of the campus community, that a choice is still being made for one side without their input, and that’s those who are exposed to risks each day due to tobacco use. A tobacco user has a choice to use; a non tobacco user exposed to it does not. 

Would your organization be willing to post who you sponsor/ donors are? It seems to me that this is a very large movement and we need to know all the players. A requirement for being an organization on the UNK campus means opening your financial statement to a full review.

The UNK Peer Health Education Office received a small grant from the Buffalo County Tobacco Free Coalition. For more information regarding funding and our work plan, please contact the coalition or Tobacco Free Nebraska Offices.

As for this becoming a large movement, communicating via social networks and campus mail helped this movement gain momentum and become “viral” within our community. As well, support from the UNK Wellness Program, UNK Staff Senate, and several UNK employees, helped to get people talking about a Tobacco-Free UNK.

If you truly believe that the 511 people that voted for the ban (17% of the campus population) equates to 73% of the campus believes in a total ban of tobacco products, we really need to know what the rest of the campus feels. The correct statistic is “73% of those who voted”.

We are unsure of where those numbers within your question came from, but I think there is some confusion. Here is the correct information regarding the student vote:

The Peer Health Education organization conducted a vote on Wednesday February 26th and Thursday the 27th asking students the following:

A correction to your stated facts; e-cigs are NOT a tobacco product; the FDA only regulates those e-cigs that claim to help with cessation. The FDA does not regulate standard e-cigs they would like to but don’t have the authority as of today. The State of Nebraska Attorney General did NOT sign on to pressuring the FDA to regulate e-cigs.

Thank you for pointing out a necessary correction. We are working on double checking this information. Regardless, what we do know about e-cigarettes is the following: The FDA does not consider e-cigarettes to be a safe nicotine delivery system. See FDA information on e-cigarettes.

As well, throughout out our research we have found the best way to ensure an effective policy is to go 100% tobacco-free. It provides a clear and simple approach to keeping the campus safe and respecting others and the environment. From thirty feet away it is virtually impossible to tell the difference between a cigarette and e-cigarette which can cause confusion regarding the campus policy. Finally, there is no way to know what is inside an e-cigarette as someone can put tobacco or marijuana into it. Therefore the best possible approach is to include it under a 100% tobacco-free policy.

It should be noted that this is only a recommendation for a policy and any policy developed will be determined by the appropriate authorities. Those authorities may deem e-cigarettes acceptable to be used on campus.

Interesting statistics when the Antelope wrote this article: http://unkantelope.com/wordpress_antelope/2014/02/26/can-unk-really-be-tobacco-free-2/

“Through the Peer Health survey, the organization found 73 percent of UNK’s student body would prefer a 100 percent tobacco free campus. “The survey has validity but we surveyed nearly 700 students of 3,000 randomly selected students, and of those responses 73 percent of them said they were in favor of a tobacco free campus,” said Ismael Torres, advisor to the Peer Health Organization Club.”

(73% of 700 is 511 people) (511 people out of 3000 is only 17% of those that were selected to vote) the campus is over 6000 people that changes your vote to only 9% of the campus voting from a tobacco free environment. So the proper conclusion is that only 17% of those asked voted for a smoke free campus.

You are greatly mistaken as to how research works. If you are interested in discussing this in person or over the phone you can contact my office at 308.865.8092 or you can leave your name, number and email address via the contact us button on this website.

When conducting research, researchers do not need to survey an entire population in order to gain valid and reliable data about that population. Generalizations can be made about that population with a level of confidence and confidence interval (margin of error) as long as the proper criterion is met with the sample population surveyed. If a randomize selection of individuals within a population is conducted, and the response rate of those randomly selected individuals reaches a set number based on the number of the entire population, your data is valid and reliable and can be generalized to that populations.

Consider the UNK Population of just over 7,000 students. The ACHA-NCHA randomly selected 3,000 of the 7,000 students at UNK to participate in the 2012 assessment. Of those 3,000 students, 690 students responded. In order to have valid and reliable data that could be generalized to the entire UNK student body population, 700 students (in a population of 10,000…UNK’s is only 7,000) would needed to have responded of the 3,000. We had enough students (690 for our population of 7,000) of that randomized selection of 3,000 respond, ensuring validity and reliability of our results.

Therefore we can say with 95% confidence that “73% of students…” with a margin of error of plus or minus 3.

This means that if we were to ask every single person at UNK this question, 73%, plus or minus 3%, would be the result that we would get 95 out of 100 times we ask the question.

These rules are followed by universities and colleges across the world as well as major research agencies such as Gallup and the ACHA.

Also, I think you are confused. We did not have that random sample of UNK students vote (3000 students of which 690 responded, of which 511 favored a tobacco free campus). That was research we conducted via an online assessment in 2012.

The vote consisted of us sending a ballot via email to all students enrolled In the Spring 2014 semester. Of the 6,000 plus students, we have 2,091 total students respond (which is a great response rate), and of that 2091, 1381 favored the policy going forward for a tobacco free UNK.

I hope this helps clear up your confusion. Otherwise I would recommend contacting me so we can discuss it in person or I would suggest taking a research methods course. Thank you.

You say the reason for the policy is respect for others but you aren’t respecting smokers. How is that right?

Answer: UNK would like to balance the “rights” of the person using tobacco with the rights of the person who doesn’t want to be exposed to the effects of tobacco use. We  have carefully considered the issues, including the impact on health and our environment. When you consider tobacco users are outnumbered by non-users by around 4 to 1, the history of many tobacco users discarding their tobacco litter indiscriminately, our strong desire to help employees and students interested in quitting their tobacco use, and the message we are sending about the negative impact of tobacco use to all who come to UNK, the justification for the policy is clear. Our objective is to have policies that create the best work environment possible. Tobacco use desecrates the environment and harms people. It is completely consistent with our mission to eliminate tobacco use from our property, but we will do so with respect for everyone, including tobacco users!

HEALTH, SAFETY AND ENVIRONMENTAL ISSUES

Why not address other major health issues facing college students?

Tobacco-free policy work will not eclipse attention to other health issues. AU works on a variety of health and safety issues affecting students, faculty and staff.

Tobacco use poses a health crisis that largely has been ignored in the U.S. because of aggressive lobbying by the tobacco industry. Tobacco-related death is the most preventable cause of mortality. In the U.S. each year, more than 400,000 people die from tobacco-related causes. Tobacco use accounts for more annual deaths than suicide, murder, HIV/AIDS, alcohol use, illegal drug use and motor vehicle injuries combined. Tobacco use and secondhand smoke are major health issues and can be influenced directly through policies that promote tobacco-free environments.  Unlike many other health issues, one person’s choice to use tobacco directly affects the health of others on a daily basis.

What about the safety of students who choose to smoke and must go off campus, especially at night?

Safety is a concern for all students, tobacco users and non-users, both on and off campus. This is why American University utilizes Public Safety and liaisons with local authorities to implement crime prevention strategies that help keep everyone safer. Students who choose to go off campus to use tobacco products would not be at any greater risk than students who choose to go off campus to study, eat, etc.

STUDENT ENROLLMENT/RETENTION

Won’t a tobacco-free policy have a negative effect on international student enrollment and disproportionally affect international students compared to domestic students?

There is no evidence that a tobacco-free policy will decrease international students’ interest in and enrollment at American University. In fact, if you survey international students on campus, you may find that they do not smoke at significantly higher rates than domestic students. You may find that many international students begin smoking after arriving in the U.S. or even on our campus. This perception that “many international students smoke” may be based on stereotypes and the fact that we often notice the behavior of people different from ourselves more than we notice the behavior of people who look like us.

If we become a tobacco-free campus, enrollment will decrease and/or people will not want to work here.

More than 600 institutions of higher education (including American University) have adopted tobacco-free policies, and many more will adopt a similar policy at some point. Tobacco-free is becoming the norm. To date, there is no evidence attributing decreased enrollments to tobacco-free policies. Furthermore, there have been no reports of any school losing staff and faculty because of tobacco-free policies. In most cases, campuses have reported increases in student applications.

Can we use the so-called e-cigarettes? They are advertised as a device that helps people quit.

Background: There are court cases that uphold the FDA’s determination that e-cigarettes are “tobacco.”  As long as the FDA considers e-cigarettes tobacco, any policy prohibiting tobacco use prohibits the use of  e-cigarettes. This is important because if e-cigarette use was permitted on your property, the enforcement of the policy would be much more difficult if not impossible. From thirty feet away it is virtually impossible to tell the difference between a cigarette and e-cigarette!

Answer: The Food and Drug Administration has determined e-cigarettes are “tobacco.” Since our policy prohibits tobacco use, e-cigarettes are included.

How will our “smoking” visitors be treated regarding the policy? 

Background: It is important to anticipate all modes of communication about the policy with visitors, vendors and others. This includes adding language in all RFP’s that successful bidders will be required to have their employees who perform contracted work on UNK property to comply with the tobacco policy.

Answer: All who come on to UNK property will be informed of the tobacco policy and thanked for their cooperation. UNK employees and students will be trained how to talk about the policy in positive ways that respect others.

What will happen if we violate the tobacco policy?

Answer: Employees and students are required to comply with organizational policies. Failure to do so would jeopardize a person’s job standing at UNK. It is our hope that all who use tobacco would choose to not do so out of respect for others and the environment. In voluntarily complying, employees and students help UNK be a welcoming destination for the thousands of visitors we serve each year. By eliminating tobacco use from our property, UNK is sending a powerful message about the harm tobacco use causes for people and our wonderful environment!

What will you do about employees and students smoking cigarettes or chewing tobacco in their cars on the parking lots?

Answer: There is not yet an official policy for this proposal, however in order to meet the goals of a healthier and cleaner campus environment, it is recommended that tobacco products be allowed on the premises (in an individual’s personal possession such as their car, bag, or place of residence), but use of that product on campus is prohibited.