Many college campuses in Montana have made the decision to completely ban smoking from school property — not just in facilities, but on school grounds as well.
Students at Montana State University-Northern will have a chance to vote for a similar policy change in the upcoming university election.
Montana’s restaurants have been smoke-free since 2005 and bars and nontribal casinos since 2009. Four Montana state campuses, Montana Tech, University of Montana and UM-Western have also made the switch.
Denise Brewer, director of student activities, said talk of making Northern tobacco-free has been in the mix for years.
“Every other sister campus is already smoke-free,” Brewer said. “So, we’re trying to go along the same lines, but we have to make sure that’s the direction the students want to go.”
Brewer said she and a group of students made steps toward implementing the policy change a couple of years ago and the student body agreed to it, but it was not finalized. Now, with a new group of students under her wing and guidelines from the BACCHUS network, they are pushing for it again. The BACCHUS network helps universities with health and safety initiatives such as anti-smoking policies.
Brewer and the group of students would have to have the policy approved by the university administration before they would be able to put it on the 2014 Student Senate election ballot. Students will be able to vote for senate members and this policy in — tentatively — the week after spring break or some time late March.
“It’ll be a simple statement that says ‘are you in favor of a tobacco-free campus,’” Brewer said.
Brewer said this is the third year this has been in the works, and it is time to push forward.
“If we’re going to do it, let’s just get it done,” Brewer said.
Brewer said that the policy change would be enforced mainly through an honor system, since there is no campus security.
MSU, MSU-Billings; tobacco-free since 2012
MSU-Billings changed its campus to a tobacco-free zone in 2012 and has seen success with the switch.
At the Billings campus, those wanting to light up must go to a city sidewalk before doing so.
Triniti Halverson is the health educator of the Student Health Services at MSU-B and said that changing the campus from smoker-friendly to tobacco-free was fairly easy.
“It’s enforced the same as all our other policies on campus,” Halverson said.
Violators of the policy will receive verbal warnings and then will meet with a hearings officer if they repeat the offense.
“They usually have an educational conversation with them and if they persist, they will be sent to a campus officer,” Halverson said. “For visitors, it starts the same way. We help them understand that they are a visitor on our campus and, if they persist, they will be sent to a campus officer.”
Halverson said that the policy has not met with much adversity, except for a few people who disagreed with it.
“They voiced their disagreement and that’s OK,” Halverson said. “We try to educate them as to why the university went with this decision … . There’s noncompliance and there always will be as with any policy.”
All-in-all, though, Halverson said that the policy is a success. In surveys made every two years, students were asked how they felt about the policy and the percentage of respondents who support the policy has gone up since before the policy was in place.
“Tobacco usage has decreased and exposure to second-hand smoke has been the largest decrease,” Halverson said. “I would absolutely advocate for any campus to (make the switch).”
The main MSU campus in Bozeman has also been smoke-free since 2012.
Marie Nelson, the health education specialist at the university, said the policy has been effective on her campus as well.
“Tobacco-free policies have been shown to not only be effective in preventing the use of tobacco on campus, but also in encouraging current smokers to quit,” Nelson said. “Tobacco efforts on college campuses can prevent new cohorts of lifetime tobacco users.”
Nelson said a tobacco-free policy protects people from unwanted exposure to second-hand smoke on the campus and the campus community has supported the change since the beginning.
“From a public health perspective, tobacco-free policies are a vital step towards reducing tobacco-related disease and death,” Nelson said.