September 3, 2014  

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Southern Miss Initiating New Smoking Policy for Hattiesburg Campus

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With an eye toward going smoke-free in the future, The University of Southern Mississippi is taking the first step toward that goal by initiating a new smoking policy to be phased in during this fall semester on the Hattiesburg campus.

Southern Miss Gulf Coast plans to form a committee during the 2011-2012 academic year to study benchmarks for its own smoking policy.  

The policy will include designated areas of the university’s Hattiesburg campus with tobacco receptacles where people can smoke, to be established in the coming weeks with signage. The fall semester will serve as a period to educate members of the university community about the new policy, followed by enforcement in the spring 2012 semester.

The effort is a collaboration of the university’s Student Government Association (SGA), Faculty Senate, Staff Council and the Office of Health Promotion, and is in keeping with one of the university’s strategic planning priorities – healthy minds, bodies and campuses.

SGA President Erick Brown, an Honors College senior from Columbus, Miss. credited a united student government team working with various campus constituencies for the successful formulation of the policy.

“We expect this policy to have a tremendous impact on the health of everyone on this campus, and that impact will result from the culture change that is the main goal of this campaign,” Brown said. “This effort is where our commitment to a healthy campus shines brightest.”

In addition, the university will begin an aggressive education campaign to encourage those who do smoke to give up the habit with the aid of smoking cessation programs facilitated by Student Health Services (SHS), said Southern Miss Health Education and Promotion Coordinator Jodi Ryder.

“With this new policy in place, we hope to decrease exposure to secondhand smoke on our campus and create a healthier environment,” Ryder said. “I personally hope it discourages new smokers and encourages current smokers to quit by making smoking less convenient and acceptable.”

 Ryder said she understands it will take time to educate the campus community about the new policy and zones, so there will be a period of warnings only during the fall semester as smokers are encouraged to utilize the zones, she said. In the spring semester, $50 fines will be issued to violators. “We will utilize every resource to inform everyone where the smoking zones are and when strict enforcement begins,” Ryder said.

Other elements of the policy include:

  • Tobacco use banned inside all university facilities, buildings and vehicles
  • Greek Life housing must establish their own smoking areas at least 15 feet from entries
  • Advertisement, distribution and sale of tobacco products are banned from all university campuses and publications
  • Tampering with, moving or damaging receptacles and signage in the smoking zones is prohibited
  • Littering of tobacco-related products will be considered a violation of the policy
  • Fines will fund the cost of tobacco cessation and education materials
  • Campus maps indicating tobacco use areas will be distributed

The team designing the new policy pointed to a report released in 2006 by the Surgeon General stating that exposure to secondhand smoke can cause disease and premature death in children and non-smoking adults as just one of the reasons to take action. The Environmental Protection Agency also estimates that exposure to secondhand smoke causes approximately 3,000 nonsmoker lung cancer deaths per year.

The policy was also prompted by the trend of other public facilities going smoke-free.

“I believe this will benefit our campus most by reducing exposure to secondhand smoke,” Ryder said. “It also shows that Southern Miss is a university promoting good health for all members of our university community.”

For more information, contact Ryder at 601.266.5266 or email jodi.ryder@usm.edu