MISSOULA, Mont. – The University of Montana is proposing a campus-wide ban on all forms of tobacco, though students and staff would have nearly two years to quit before it's enforced.
The Associated Students of the University of Montana Senate endorsed the ban and President George Dennison recently sent an e-mail informing faculty, staff and students of the proposal.
Over the next year, the university will gather comments and hold public meetings and smoking cessation programs. The ban would take effect in the fall of 2011.
The University of Montana and other Montana campuses already have a 25-foot nonsmoking perimeter around building entrances, but a study by the UM Tobacco Task Force found that nearly two-thirds of smokers were violating that regulation.
"We actually did the research because some students were complaining about it," said Kari Harris, an associate professor of public health at UM.
The ban includes smokeless tobacco because just banning smoking would give students the message that it's safer to use other forms of tobacco, she said.
The tobacco ban would also include Washington-Grizzly Stadium, where smoking currently is allowed along perimeter fences, the UM Golf Course and all campus parking lots.
Linda Green, director of health enhancement at UM and a Tobacco Task Force member, said she wants to hear from students, even if they're mad about the proposed ban.
"This is new territory for us," she said. "And we will see after this first part of the assessment of the entire campus what people really think. We want to hear their concerns."
The proposal does not spell out penalties for violating the ban, but two years of education and forewarning will be more effective, Green said.
"When the time actually comes, you won't have many people breaking the policy," she said. "But we will not have people out there handing out tickets."
The new policy targets the same people that the cigarette companies are targeting: 18- to 24-year-olds, Green said.
Montana Tech in Butte plans to go tobacco-free on July 1, year 2010, while Montana State University in Bozeman has proposed a similar ban.