KU says campuswide smoking and tobacco ban will begin in fall 2018

photo by: Journal-World File Photo

In this file photo from January 2009, a University of Kansas student takes a smoke break outside the Kansas Union.

The University of Kansas campus plans to go not just completely smoke-free, but completely tobacco-free, too, beginning in fall 2018.

An official university announcement about the new rule isn’t expected until fall of 2017, according to the initiative’s latest timeline. But the years-long Tobacco Free KU initiative is continuing its efforts to get the word out and get people on board in advance, including a few events this week in connection with the American Cancer Society’s Great American Smokeout on Thursday.

It’s hoped that a longer road to implementation will help ensure everyone is informed and ready for a new norm, university spokeswoman Erinn Barcomb-Peterson said.

“It’s just a matter of changing the culture,” Barcomb-Peterson said. “It’s no longer going to be the norm to see someone smoking or using tobacco.”

Currently, smoking isn’t allowed inside buildings, but students, staff and visitors are allowed to smoke outdoors, as long as they are at least 20-feet away from buildings. Residents of student housing also are allowed to use smokeless tobacco products inside their rooms. Under the new policy all tobacco use — plus the use of e-cigarettes — will be banned from all parts of campus, indoors or outside.

Enforcement of the ban will follow phased approach, Barcomb-Peterson said.

“At least in the first year or so it’s not going to be a matter of people going out and looking for people who are breaking this ban,” Barcomb-Peterson said. “It’s going to be more a matter of just getting people used to the culture change — it’s expected when you come to campus it is tobacco-free.”

KU is nowhere near the first university to ban smoking or tobacco on campus.

As of October 1, 2016, there are at least 1,713 100-percent smoke-free campuses in the U.S., according to Americans for Nonsmokers’ Rights. Of those schools, 1,427 are 100-percent tobacco free.

This is at least the second time Tobacco Free KU has pushed back its campuswide tobacco ban implementation date.

When the ban was pushed back fall 2015 to fall 2016, human resources director Ola Faucher said more time was needed to adjust the draft policy, seek support from campus stakeholders and increase awareness about health risks of smoking and the policy change.

Currently at KU, cigarette smokers, electronic cigarette users and tobacco users can do so on campus but must go outside and get at least 20 feet away from buildings, according to the university’s current policy.

Smoking, electronic cigarettes and tobacco use are all prohibited in Memorial Stadium, the Kansas Memorial Unions, the Adams Alumni Center, and the facilities of the KU Center for Research Inc., the policy says. Smoking and electronic cigarettes are banned in campus housing, but use of chewing tobacco and snuff is allowed for student residents in facilities operated by Student Housing. 

A draft of KU’s proposed tobacco-free policy is posted online at tobaccofree.ku.edu. It would apply to both the Lawrence and Edwards campuses. The policy would not apply to tobacco use in personal vehicles.

Violation of the policy would be addressed through existing employee and student disciplinary processes, such as those outlined in the student and faculty codes.

“KU is strongly committed to supporting individuals to become tobacco free to encourage a respectful, healthier, and more productive learning/living environment for all members of our campus community,” the proposed policy states. “Studies, many conducted by our KU colleagues, have proven time and again that tobacco is a leading cause of death from many diseases, both for those who use tobacco products and those who are exposed to them on a second or third-hand basis.”

The KU Medical Center campus in Kansas City, Kan., has a separate policy. According to the policy, smoking, electronic cigarette and tobacco use are banned from all buildings and only allowed in certain designated outdoor areas on the campus.

Upcoming Tobacco Free KU events

The Tobacco Free KU initiative has several events planned during the coming week.

Tuesday — Free movie night featuring “Thank You for Smoking,” 7 p.m. in the Kansas Room at the Kansas Union.

Wednesday — Wellness Wednesday, including ask-a-nurse about nicotine replacement therapy, noon to 2 p.m. at the Kansas Union Plaza.

Thursday — Great American Smokeout observation, where visitors can learn more about Tobacco Free KU and smoking cessation, noon to 2 p.m. at Anschutz Library.