Beginning August 1, all tobacco and related products will be prohibited on the University of West Florida campus.
UWF will join about 1,100 campuses nationwide, including 26 across Florida, in going tobacco and smoke-free. Patsy Barrington in the Exercise Science and Community Health Department says work on the policy began a couple of years ago.
“The reason it came about is because a campus-wide policy did not exist,” said Barrington. “There were policies in certain areas on campus. The Commons had a policy, but nothing that addressed campus-wide.”
For now, it’s not known just how many, or the percentage of UWF students, faculty and staff who are tobacco users, but Barrington says a guess by Human Resources is around 10%, which would fall into line with other universities.
The Tobacco-Free Campus Policy, developed by representatives from virtually all walks of campus life, prohibits the use of any such product or derivative by employees, students and visitors on all university-owned property, including inside vehicles.
“Smoke-free policies include cigarettes, and tobacco-free policies include all tobacco products,” Barrington said. “Unfortunately, [UWF’s] not at the cutting edge of this. Campuses have been going tobacco-free for several years now; we’re happy to join the healthy movement.”
The policy also covers e-cigarettes and smokeless tobacco. Exemptions include the golf course at Scenic Hills Country Club, the clubhouse there remains tobacco-free; the Emerald Coast campus, which is owned by Northwest Florida State College, and the campuses at Hurlburt Field and Crestview.
Watching and applauding the work at UWF is Vanessa Phillips, Health Education Manager at the Florida Department of Health in Escambia County.
“A lot of people we assist in their ‘quit smoking journey’ say that stress is one of their factors in starting,” Phillips said. “And that does happen when they’re studying, getting ready for exams, and going through that college process. So, if we remove the ease of which people can go outside and smoke, then they’re more likely to go through their college years without ever starting.”
One of the Health Department’s most popular programs is “Kick Butts Day,” which was held recently at area schools. This year’s theme was “1300” – the number of Americans who die each day from smoking-related illnesses.
Enforcement of the policy will be the duty of deans, department chairs and directors. Warnings likely will be issued for a first-time offender, with the potential for more severe punishment for subsequent violations. UWF’s Patsy Barrington says there’s help available to drop the habit.
“We’re not telling anybody that they have to quit smoking; we’re just restricting through the work hours while they’re on campus,” said Barrington. “The Area Health Education Center offers a class, once a month here on campus, [for] two hours. And it’s free.”
More information on the new policy can be found at www.uwf.edu/tobaccofree.