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Students, campus leaders discuss possibilities of tobacco-free campus

Lili+Steffen+%2F+The+Daily+Wildcat%0A%0AStephanie+Kha%2C+student+representative+from+the+Student+Health+Advocacy+Committee%2C+speaks+about+a+plan+to+make+UA+a+tobacco+free+campus+at+a+public+forum%2C+Friday.
Lili Steffen
Lili Steffen / The Daily Wildcat Stephanie Kha, student representative from the Student Health Advocacy Committee, speaks about a plan to make UA a tobacco free campus at a public forum, Friday.

Campus leaders and community members gathered on Friday evening for an open forum to discuss the possibility of a tobacco-free campus.

The Associated Students of the University of Arizona and the Student Health Advocacy Committee hosted the forum, which began with Stephanie Kha, a biochemistry junior and director of SHAC, who spoke about how a tobacco ban would benefit the school.

Nearly 800 campuses nationwide have instituted a tobacco ban, Kha said, adding that bringing the ban to the UA campus would establish the school as a leader of health for the community.

Surveys collected by SHAC last summer showed 70 percent of more than 3,000 undergraduates supported a tobacco ban on campus.

Kha said the ban would be a gradual process, and would focus on awareness and compliance, rather than enforcement of rules.

“With this policy, it would be an awareness campaign for a set amount of months,” Kha said.

Joe Zanoni, a political science sophmore, said though he doesn’t smoke, he isn’t a supporter of a tobacco ban. He said the ban could cause issues with cigarette butts on campus.

“On some campuses that are tobacco free, people still smoke and then have nowhere to put their cigarette butts,” Zanoni said, “I don’t want our campus being filthy with cigarette butts.”

In March, SHAC led a clean up pick up cigarette butts around campus. In one hour, more than 19,000 butts were picked up, Kha said.

Much of the discussion focused on the actual health risks of secondhand smoke.

ASUA President Morgan Abraham had to remind audience members that the main focus of the evening was to get feedback on the ban as a whole, and not necessarily focus on the health risks.

One worry was for game day tailgates and students expressed concern that visitors who come to campus to tailgate won’t be able to smoke cigars on campus.

Abraham said he has spoken with ASU student body president Jordan Davis about tailgating while being a tobacco-free school.

“[Jordan Davis] said that tobacco during tailgates isn’t even a problem right now,” Abraham said.

The current rules for tobacco use on the UA campus say smokers must be 50 feet away from a building before smoking.

Another issue discussed was if the tobacco ban would improve campus health.

“I think that the policy makes a statement about the university and the initiative towards becoming healthy,” said Amanda Lester, administrative vice president of SHAC and a junior studying psychology and English. “And it’s to promote healthy living.”

Students argued that if the issue at stake was campus health, then the focus should shift to other potential hazards, like alcohol or fast food.

“I don’t think that it’s very fair to pick and choose what parts of the campus you want to be healthy,” one audience member said.

The forum concluded with the desire to create a middle ground between a complete tobacco ban and what the current tobacco rules are.

The ban will be reconsidered by the Faculty Senate next semester.

– Follow Jazmine Foster-Hall @Jazz_Foster

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