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Wednesday, Dec. 17, 10:39 a.m.
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Smoke ’em if you got ’em: Tobacco ban approved

University of Maine President Robert Kennedy announced his approval of the Tobacco Free Campus Initiative to faculty senate members during their Feb. 24 meeting. Kennedy’s approval marks the end of a more than three-year process to institute a tobacco ban at the university.

The president said the initiative would promote a healthy lifestyle.

“After we have talked to many students and many different groups I wanted to inform you that we will be implementing the Tobacco Free Campus Initiative effective Jan. 1, 2011,” Kennedy said.

The Tobacco Free Campus Initiative is a campus-wide, three-phase ban on tobacco use proposed by the Tobacco Free Committee — a twenty-member group composed of faculty, staff and students.

Daniel Belknap, head of the Faculty Senate’s University Environment Committee, said the initiative does not require anyone to stop smoking, but that they not smoke on campus.

The first phase of the initiative, dubbed “the informational phase,” — which consists of a plan to educate the community about the new policy — takes effect immediately, according to UMaine spokesman Joe Carr.

The second phase, in which the university will request voluntary compliance, will begin Jan. 1, 2011. Posted signs and materials will be obvious to anyone on campus, according to Carr.

The last phase, in which enforcement of the policy will begin, starts in 2012. Carr said he hopes that by 2012 education efforts will have been so successful that “enforcement won’t be much of a problem.”

There is currently no plan established to enforce the initiative. Carr said plans will be developed by Student Affairs and other departments by the time phase three begins.

“I think [the initiative] is a model of responsible conduct, good behavior and high standards,” Kennedy said.

In response to a Jan. 27 recommendation from the Faculty Senate University Environment Committee, the Tobacco Free Committee hosted open forum discussions to discuss consequences of a potentially tobacco-free campus. The environment committee’s report stressed issues with enforcement, and the effect the initiative would have on long-term smokers — especially employees who may have been smoking for years. Belknap said he still worries about these factors now that the initiative has been approved.

Belknap expressed disappointment at forum turnouts. He explained that many people who attended the first meeting, which was intended to be a place for dialogue between the university community and the committee, misinterpreted the format.

The confusion resulted a lack of conversation in the meeting, which Belknap described as an “information dump.” He said the second meeting, as described by Belknap, was more productive. Approximately 60 people attended the two open forum discussions.

Dana said Kennedy would have considered alternatives if  “major revelations” had arisen in research.

“The president was very open to receiving input,” Dana said.

Dana and Vice President of Financial Affairs Janet Waldron commissioned the Tobacco Free Campus Committee study in July 2007 on Kennedy’s behalf. Based on the committee’s June 2009 report, the Tobacco Free Campus Committee recommended the initiative to Waldron, Dana and Kennedy.

Kennedy acknowledged the initiative would cause lifestyle adjustment for smokers, but available resources would at least accommodate those trying to quit or adapt.

“We’re going to try to be a little bit more proactive with the educational and motivational aspect,” Kennedy said.

Dana said the tobacco-free nature of the university would be obvious in admission materials and that the initiative would appear on UMaine’s Web site.

The initiative will probably have an effect on employee health insurance, according to Dana, who said any change in cost will probably depend upon how many people request tobacco cessation services.

Dana and Kennedy were unable to say how much the initiative will cost, but Dana estimated the cost to be “very modest.” He explained many resources are already available on campus, such as the Alcohol and Drug Education Program, which he said would see increased use.

In other Faculty Senate news, The Academic Program Prioritization Working Group will host an open forum discussions March 29 in Wells Commons. Provost Susan Hunter said each degree granting college will be represented at the forum, where she will present initial findings to the group.

The senate passed a Program Creation and Reorganization Review Committee motion to consider the adoption of a doctoral degree program in Anthropology and Environmental Policy.

UMaine board of trustees representative Bob Rice said two new trustees — Samuel Collins and Eastern Maine Healthcare CEO Michelle Hood — have been nominated to the board. Student Government Sen. Ben Goodman was nominated to the University of Maine System board of trustees by Gov. John Baldacci.