University of Memphis to Become a Smoke-Free Campus

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Officials at the University of Memphis have decided to push for a tobacco-free campus by next summer.

The move was spurred by a student government petition last year and similar actions by faculty and staff leaders. Maria Alam, who is chief human resources officer for the university, told The Commercial Appeal that she is "reviewing and putting together a policy" for the campus.

"The idea is not to go around policing," she said. "But we'd address it as complaints come in."

In her position with the university, Alam oversees workplace regulations, including smoking. She said smoking is already banned within 20 feet of a door or window on campus, to comply with a state law.

Stephen Petersen, dean of students, said those who violate the tobacco ban would get a warning note for a first offense. After that, they would be called in for a discussion and as a last resort "we would invite the student to step away from the university for a while. Let's hope students, in trying to prove a point, don't take it that far."

Alam said she anticipates some exceptions, such as keeping smokers' rooms at the on-campus Holiday Inn and the Fogelman conference center. She also said there could be "academic, artistic, and research" purposes to allow tobacco, such as an on-campus play where a character smokes.

The effort is entwined with a campaign calling for a "Healthier New Century," which is tied in to the university's ongoing centennial celebrations.

The policy will affect about 11 percent of the students who attend the university, according to a student survey in the spring that found about that many students smoke five to seven days a week. The survey found that 15.3 percent of students smoke less regularly, anywhere from once a year to three times a week.