December board meeting includes approval of tobacco ban, other items

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Photo of a WMU sign.

The Board of Trustees met Thursday, Dec. 5.

KALAMAZOO—Acting at its Dec. 5 meeting, the Western Michigan University Board of Trustees approved a measure to make WMU a tobacco-free campus, effective Sept. 1, 2014.

An early draft of the policy had been shared with trustees at the board's meeting in July. Members of the board voted unanimously to approve the measure at their Dec. 5 meeting. The policy applies to all members of the campus community as well as campus visitors, vendors, contract employees and others. It will be in effect on all University-owned property, including at regional locations. The sole exception to the policy will be that tobacco use will be permitted within enclosed personal vehicles.

Vice President for Student Affairs Diane K. Anderson presented the proposal to the board, noting both the lengthy process leading up to the policy recommendation as well as the work that will take place to prepare for implementation at the start of the fall 2014 semester.

Development of the policy, she noted, followed a year's worth of work at WMU that included study of best practices at other institutions, an in-depth survey of the opinions and tobacco-use habits of the entire WMU employee base and student population, and formation of campuswide working committees to analyze the feasibility of such a policy and begin planning for implementation.

Creating a healthier community

"We began with a desire to meet one of the goals in the University's strategic plan—ensuring a diverse, inclusive and healthy community," Anderson said. "This is a specific strategy to achieve that goal and to enhance the health and wellness of the community by providing an optimally healthy and safe working and living environment for students, faculty, staff and visitors."

Anderson said the University will spend the next nine months working to inform and educate the campus community and its regular visitors about the new policy as well as provide assistance for faculty, staff and students who choose to use the new policy as impetus to curtail their tobacco use. Additional resources will be provided for smoking cessation programs already in place on campus.

The new policy prohibits the use of all tobacco products, which are "defined to include the following: cigarettes, electronic-cigarettes, cigars, bidis, snuff, snus, water pipes, pipes, hookahs, chew and any other non-combustible tobacco products." The expansive tobacco-free language includes the campus being smoke-free. The policy would also prohibit forms of smokeless tobacco and any nicotine delivery device that has not been approved by the Food and Drug Administration for cessation.

The move means that WMU will join more than 1,100 campuses nationwide that are smoke free or tobacco free. That number represents about a quarter of all American colleges and universities. In Michigan, 25 colleges and universities are among that group.

Visit wmich.edu/tobaccofree to read the complete policy passed by the board, view a timeline of WMU's Tobacco-Free Campus initiative or get answers to frequently asked questions about how the policy will impact campus life. 

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