UNR president expects smoke-free campus by 2015

RENO — UNR’s president is backing a push by a growing number of faculty, staff and students to make the Reno campus smoke- and tobacco-free in one of only five states that have no such ban at any of their colleges or universities.

Marc Johnson, president of the University of Nevada, Reno, originally hoped to formally ban all tobacco products — as well as electronic cigarettes — by September. But now Johnson expects the prohibition to be implemented in August 2015.

The Graduate Student Association and the Faculty Senate have endorsed the idea, but it has yet to go before the Associated Students of the University of Nevada representing undergraduates.

Students president Ziad Rashdan said he supports the tobacco-free initiative and expects senators representing the undergraduates to vote on a resolution by March.

It’s not clear if the ban would apply to sporting or other entertainment events. Smoking currently is banned at UNR within 25 feet of building entrances.

Johnson said the proposed tobacco ban is an extension of UNR’s effort to improve the mental and physical lives of students. More than 85 percent of students on campus don’t smoke or use other forms of tobacco, according to an annual survey conducted by UNR’s Student Health Center.

“The whole purpose is, again, to have a campus that represents human capital investment so students who come out of here are known for their mental acuity, their knowledge and their fitness,” Johnson told the Reno Gazette-Journal. “We don’t plan on writing out any tickets. It will be social enforcement.”

The website for UNR’s Student Health Center includes information on how the policy would be enforced using social pressure: “Members of the university community are empowered to respectfully inform others about the policy in an ongoing effort to enhance awareness and encourage compliance,” the website states.

Student activists at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas have pushed unsuccessfully in recent years for a similar ban on their campus.

The only other states with no smoke-free campuses are New Mexico, Rhode Island, Vermont and Wyoming, according to Americans for Nonsmokers’ Rights, a national lobbying organization that counts more than 1,100 U.S. colleges and universities with smoking bans.

RJ Boyajian, president of UNR’s Graduate Students Association, said she doesn’t think a ban would be effective unless UNR provides fines or some other kind of deterrent.

“Having studied public policy, I think it will fail without enforcement,” said Boyajian, who earned a doctorate in political science.

“Look at the professors who smoke in their offices,” she said. “Not only is it not socially accepted, it’s illegal. And it continues to happen.”

Boyajian said a tobacco ban should include sports and venues where other events are held on campus.

“There are smoking areas at every Lawlor Events Center concert and basketball game, and at Mackay Stadium. If they truly want a tobacco-free campus, it has to be prohibited at those places, too,” she said.

UNR spokeswoman Jane Tors said that because the proposed ban would apply to visitors to the campus, logic dictates that would include banning tobacco use at sporting and other events.

“While I have not heard specific reference to (Lawlor Events Center or Mackay Stadium), this would certainly lead me to believe the policy will apply (to them),” she said.