Frequently Asked Questions

Q. Why is WMU going tobacco-free?

A. Becoming a tobacco-free campus will allow WMU to create a healthier campus. This policy represents an extension of WMU's student and employee wellness initiatives, all aimed at fostering a healthier, more productive living and learning environment while working towards reduced health care costs. The fourth goal of the University Strategic Plan is to ensure a diverse, inclusive, and healthy community. A specific strategy of this goal is to enhance the health and wellness of the community. WMU wants to provide and maintain an optimally healthy and safe working and living environment for students, faculty, and visitors. Recognizing the health, safety, and comfort benefits of smoke-free air and tobacco-free spaces, WMU is choosing to go tobacco-free.

Q. Are e-cigarettes included? If yes, why?

A. E-cigarettes are prohibited by WMU's tobacco-free policy. After extensive research, it was decided to ban these devices for the following reasons: 

  • E-cigarettes may emit nicotine or vapors containing detectable carcinogens and toxic chemicals.
  • Some of the known vapors in e-cigarettes are considered to pose health risks; the extent of the risk is unknown at this time.
  • The American Medical Association, American Cancer Society, American Heart Association, and American Lung Association all recommend that smoke free laws and policies prohibit the use of e-cigarettes.
  • The tobacco industry heavily markets e-cigarettes as a cessation device, although they have not been approved by the FDA for this purpose. Allowing them in the policy may lead smokers to turn to e-cigarettes as a cessation device posing potential health risks.

Q. When will the policy take effect?

A. The policy goes into effect Sept. 1, 2014. Until September 2014, we will be in the implementation phase, working to inform and educate the campus community and making the necessary preparations for the policy to go into effect.

Q. Is the university requiring that people quit tobacco products?

A. No. The university is saying that smoking and tobacco use will not be allowed on University grounds. For those people who choose to quit the use of tobacco products, the University will support them through the cessation programs that have been offered for many years. 

Q. The policy says WMU is tobacco free, does that mean smoke free, too?

A.  The policy does mean the campus will be smoke free as well, but the more expansive tobacco-free language was selected for this move by the University.

Q. What is considered a tobacco product and prohibited by the policy?

A. For the purpose of the policy "tobacco" is defined to include any tobacco product or derivative, including but not limited to any lighted or unlighted cigarette, cigar, pipe, bidi, hookah, and other non-combustible tobacco-free products such as e-cigarettes. The tobacco-free policy also includes the campus being smoke-free. The policy would also include forms of smokeless tobacco and any nicotine delivery device that has not been approved by the FDA for cessation.

Q. What are the borders of the tobacco-free environment?

A. The legal property lines of all University-owned facilities constitute the boundaries of the WMU tobacco-free environment. The ban does not extend to the perimeter sidewalks of the WMU campuses. A perimeter walk is one that runs along public thoroughfares.

Q. Does this policy apply to city-owned streets, sidewalks and rights of way?

A. WMU does not have jurisdiction over the use of city owned streets, sidewalks and rights of way in regard to tobacco use or related activities. Please note, however, that many streets and sidewalks adjacent to the campus are University property.

Q. Can I smoke in my own vehicle within the tobacco-free environment?

A. Yes, people may smoke in their enclosed personal vehicles. This is the only exception in the policy.

Q. Will tobacco use be allowed at Miller Auditorium, athletic tailgates or other large campus gatherings?

A. This policy will apply to all events on campus. People are allowed to smoke in their personal vehicles with the windows closed.

Q. Who is affected by this policy?

A. All university employees, students, visitors and contractors are required to comply with the guidelines. The policy will apply to everyone who is on University-owned property. All visitors, including vendors, contract workers, etc., will be required to refrain from using tobacco products on our campuses.

Q. What should I do if I see someone smoking on campus, starting in the fall?

A. The University will supply those interested with small cards that note WMU's tobacco-free status. The easiest approach is simply to hand the smoker such a card. If you are comfortable speaking to the smoker, you can say: "Are you aware that we do not allow the use of tobacco products of any kind on our campus? I ask you to please respect our policy and put your cigarette out (or other tobacco product). We appreciate your respect for our campus environment."

Q. Are other universities tobacco or smoke free?

A. As of Dec. 1, 2013, there were 1,272 campuses that are or have made the commitment to be smoke free. Of those, 758 are tobacco free. The number of smoke-free campuses represents about a quarter of all American colleges and universities. Visit here to find a list of those schools. In Michigan, there are 25 colleges that have made the smoke- or tobacco-free commitment. They include all University of Michigan campuses, Central Michigan University and Michigan Technological University.

Q. What will WMU do to help employees and students who want to quit using tobacco?

A. Methods are available to support tobacco users who wish to quit. A complete description of cessation services offered at Sindecuse Health Center can be found on this website.

Q. Why are there no designated smoking areas?

A.  The results of a survey sent to the entire campus community and review of best practices from other schools, led to the decision to not have designated smoking areas.

Q. How will the tobacco-free policy be enforced?

A. The guiding principle of enforcement will be respect for all. This key approach needs to includes tobacco users and nonusers and must encompass respect for the rules the University has adopted. We hope this principle will help guide everyone as we transition to a healthier tobacco-free environment. From review of other campuses, best practice suggests that these changes in culture can happen with everyone working to be respectful of the policy. Repeated abuse of the policy will be addressed through the Student Conduct Office for students and Human Resources for employees. Compliance can be achieved through consistent messaging and policy education.

Q. How will WMU tell visitors about the tobacco-free campus?

A. All university students, faculty and staff will be informed about WMU's tobacco-free policy and how they should alert visitors coming to campus. Signage will be prominently displayed at all entrances to the University as well as on WMU's website. Admissions, along with other campus units, will want to add discussion of the policy to their agenda for tours and when they make visits off campus.

Q. What will the new policy mean for owners of property adjacent to campus?

A. We expect students and employees to be good ambassadors and representatives of our organizations and to respect neighboring properties outside of our campuses.

Q. Are there any exceptions to the policy?

A. Enclosed personal vehicles are the exception to the policy. Any additional exceptions must be approved by the provost, vice president for business and finance and vice president for student affairs, in consultation with the president.

Q. What if people don't abide by the policy?

A. Repeated abuse of the policy will be addressed through the Student Conduct process for students and by Human Resources for employees. WMU has a compliance policy for faculty and staff, and students.

Q. Is WMU trying to dictate people's lifestyle choices?

A. Tobacco and smoking is harmful to people's health. We also realize the use of tobacco is a personal choice. We are asking people to refrain from smoking and tobacco use—to adapt their personal behaviors—while they are working on or visiting our campus.

Q. What are the rights of smokers?

A. Court rulings maintain that tobacco users do not have the legal right to expose others to secondhand smoke, which is considered a Class A carcinogen. Additionally, people who smoke are not entitled to protection against discrimination as "addicts" or as "disabled persons." There is no legal right to smoke. Prohibiting smoking on campus provides access to clean, smoke-free air while allowing adults who smoke to continue to do so off-campus. This decision supports the rights and privileges of both smokers and non-smokers.

Q  Isn't tobacco use a personal right?

A. Tobacco use is a legal product for adults. WMU is not asking anyone to quit using that product. However, the University oversees all campus property, and can establish policies that protect the health and safety of all campus community members. A tobacco-free policy does not prohibit tobacco use; it merely establishes where use can occur.

Q. What nicotine replacement therapies (NRTs) are available on campus?

A. Nicotine replacement products include nicotine patches and nicotine gum. Sindecuse Pharmacy has licensed pharmacists available to answer questions regarding nicotine replacement and prescription products to help you stop using tobacco. Prescription products are only available with a clinician order. Please call (269) 387-3355 to talk with pharmacy staff.

Q. What other forms of support are available?

A. The following plans are available:

  • Blue Cross Blue Shield—Quit the Nic
  • Aetna Quitting Smoking for Aetna Student Health Customers

Online programs include those from the American Cancer Society, American Lung Association and Tobacco Free U. Links can be found on Sindecuse's website.

Q. How can I ask questions or address concerns that I have about the tobacco-free campus policy?

A. Any questions pertaining to the tobacco-free and smoke-free campus policy can be submitted to the Tobacco Free website.

Q. What questions should I ask my insurance company to find out whether nicotine replacement therapies are covered under my plan?

A. Due to recent changes in insurance plan coverage and the Affordable Care Act, many individuals are discovering that their insurance plans cover the cost of prescription and over-the-counter cessation products with minimal or no out-of-pocket costs. We encourage you to contact your insurance plan provider to better understand your coverage. Here are a few guiding questions to help you with that discussion.

  • Does my insurance plan cover the cost of any prescription nicotine replacement therapies or tobacco cessation products? Which ones? How much of the cost will be covered?
  • Does my insurance plan cover the cost of any over-the-counter nicotine replacement therapies or tobacco cessation products? Which ones? How much of the cost will be covered?
  • Do I need a prescription for over-the-counter options to ensure the insurance plan will cover the cost?