Editorial: Breathe easy

The University of Kansas’ plan to go completely tobacco-free in the next two years is the right call. Other college campuses have already made the switch, and there are no downsides.

The only question is why the university continues to push back the implementation date.

An official university announcement won’t come until 2017, but the Tobacco Free KU initiative is continuing to get the word out and get people on board in advance. There are events this week in connection with the American Cancer Society’s Great American Smokeout on Thursday.

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

But this is at least the second time Tobacco Free KU has pushed back its campuswide tobacco ban implementation date. The ban initially was pushed back from fall 2015 to fall 2016. Now, the initiative is being pushed back another two years. Human resources director Ola Faucher said more time was needed to adjust the policy, seek support and increase awareness about the health risks of smoking and the policy change.

Currently, smoking isn’t allowed inside buildings at KU, 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.

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. 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.

Under the new policy, all tobacco use and the use of e-cigarettes will be banned from all parts of campus, indoors or outside. Enforcement of the ban will be phased in.

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.

The health hazards of tobacco use are well documented and undeniable. KU’s tobacco ban is the right policy. The sooner it can be implemented, the better.