ST. GEORGE – Administrators at Dixie State University are kicking tobacco off campus. Monday, the university's Board of Trustees unanimously voted in favor of the measure.
The policy change would prohibit smoking, chewing tobacco and even e-cigarettes from campus. By passing the measure, trustees are asking administrators to draft a policy for consideration this fall. Enforcement wouldn't happen until school starts in 2014.
The proposal is student-driven and started in 2010 when then-student senator Joe Pate says he noticed campuses across the country had similar bans, yet no public institution in Utah had a policy in effect.
"I’m glad it's happening, but it should have happened long ago," says Pate.
Pate says he and fellow student Jim Seely held forums and conducted surveys. They say the majority of the students were in favor of a ban, so they decided to take it to the Board of Trustees.
"It's something that we believe in, we believe in health," says Seely. "We believe that this is an important issue. So we're very excited."
The trustees agreed, voting unanimously. Vice Chair Jon Pike says the board couldn't ignore the voice of the student majority.
"In this age where we know so much about tobacco and its very harmful qualities in terms of one of the leading causes of cancer and ultimately death, we just feel like this is a day of health and wellness," says Pike.
The buildings on campus are already smoke free through the Utah Clean Air Act. The policy change would apply to common areas, walkways and parking lots. The one exception would be smoking in a privately-owned car.
But smokers say it's imposing a rule on the minority. While they recognize the health concerns, smokers say it's impeding on their right to do what they want with their body.
"We are all adults here and we can do what we want," says smoker Cody Marz. "It's not like if some person just walks past a smoker they're going to going to get cancer right then and there."
Marz says the policy change would be an inconvenience, but doesn't see it affecting the number of students who use tobacco.
The only other Utah university with a tobacco ban is privately-owned Brigham Young University.