Indiana colleges look to revise campus smoking policies

2012-11-27T00:00:00Z 2012-12-04T17:47:06Z Indiana colleges look to revise campus smoking policiesErin Clark, Brittany O’Brien, Nicole Miller and Conor Hockett Special to The Times nwitimes.com

Many of Indiana’s largest universities are preparing stricter smoking rules, putting teeth behind smoke-free policies that -- to now -- have been at least partly hot air.

Ball State, Purdue and Indiana State all describe themselves as smoke-free, but still have designated smoking areas outside dorms and main campus buildings.

Kay Bales, vice president of student affairs at Ball State, said the school plans to become 100 percent smoke-free within the next academic year, making the transformation complete.

“We are a healthy community, and I think health is an important issue in regards to this policy. Not only one’s health, but also overall health of students and faculty,” Bales said.

Indiana University was the first of the state’s larger schools to restrict all tobacco use on campus in 2008, and other colleges beside Ball State are looking to follow suit.

Will Downs, assistant vice president of human resources at Indiana State, said the school hopes to eliminate smoking locations and become 100 percent smoke-free within the year as well.

At Purdue, smoking is prohibited on campus except in designated smoking areas. However, smoking is permitted in privately owned, closed vehicles.

Bales said Ball State decided to delay its new rule until next fall to give the campus time to understand the new restrictions.

A.J. Schaefer, a smoker who transferred from IU to Muncie in 2010, said he doubts the new policy will stop those determined to still light up.

A senior advertising major, Schaefer said he frequently walked around IU’s campus smoking openly, despite the strict policy.

“I understand the reasoning of the university to entirely restrict smoking, but I view it similarly to gun control on campuses,” Schaefer said. “It’s good in theory, but still hinders the rights and freedoms of students. There’s probably a better solution.”

Campus police said they can’t write tickets for smokers unless they violate state or local laws, including Indiana’s new smoke-free air law that went into effect July 1. It bans smoking inside or within eight feet of most public places or places of employment.

*Smokers are, however, subject to a range of campus penalties. Ball State issues a $50 fine for those smoking outside designated areas. Carol McCord, associate dean of students at IU, said students are given an opportunity to learn and understand the policy before consequences are determined.

Travis Thickstun, public information officer for the Indiana Alcohol and Tobacco Commission, said there are 11 exemptions to the smoking ban, but universities aren’t one of them.

“A public university is both a public place and a place of employment,” Thickstun said. “Each building (on campus) would have to place the requisite signs at the entrances and somewhere inside.”

Thickstun said there are ways to gain extra exemptions, or loopholes allowing other organizations, like schools, to add stricter rules onto the law.

“The law requires eight feet from a public entrance. If a business, company, university or any other organization wants to be more restrictive, then the law requires they are able to do that.”

A revised company policy has to be enforced internally, Thickstun said. The police don’t have authority to regulate beyond the new law, but it hasn’t stopped Ball State from adding other stipulations to encourage a smoke-free environment.

The university offers a $600 deduction to employees who pledge that they and their dependents covered by the school’s health insurance do not smoke. Rhonda Murr, director of Ball State’s health insurance program, said employees are tracked by turning in smoke-free petitions to the payroll and employee benefits department.

A health care reward is just one step the university is taking toward revising its policy, originally made in 2008. Students and faculty met for the first time last summer to discuss possible changes.

“Ball State is constantly trying to assess other universities and see where we compare,” said Kevin Kenyon, associate vice president of facilities, planning and management.

*At the University of Notre Dame, smoking is prohibited indoors and within 25 feet of all buildings.

Jeremy Canceller, a human resources customer representative at Notre Dame, said the school has no immediate plans to regulate tobacco further.

“There have been no new advances, although we are looking into editing the policy once more areas around us become smoke-free,” Canceller said.

Canceller was referring to establishments around the South Bend area, but smoking rates among students at Indiana colleges shows why other schools are leaning toward 100 percent smoke-free campuses.

A 2011 National College Health Assessment showed 5.1 percent of Ball State students smoke daily.

According to an Indiana University School of Health, Physical Education and Recreation study completed in 2009, 12.8 percent of students at Indiana smoke, and 10.1 percent of students smoke at Purdue.

Those numbers at all three schools compare favorably to the Center for Disease Control’s Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System survey done in 2009, which showed 25.6 percent of 18-24-year-olds smoke in Indiana.

With those statistics in mind, Indiana colleges are preparing for the future, with hopes of a lower percent of student smokers.

“This isn’t a fad, it’s a change,” Bales said.

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* Denotes story is corrected from a previous version.

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Clark, O'Brien, Miller and Hockett are advanced reporting students in the Ball State journalism program.

Copyright 2014 nwitimes.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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