Editor’s note: This story has been edited to add reference to the 2016 Undergraduate Student Government vote.
After years of surveys, debates, presentations and votes, Case Western Reserve University goes entirely tobacco-free starting Saturday.
In simplest terms, the new policy means that individuals may not use any form of tobacco—with or without smoke—within university buildings or outside on any property that the university owns, rents or leases.
The ban is all-inclusive of the campus; even areas previously designated for outdoor smoking no longer may be used for those purposes.
The university adopted the policy last year, but established an effective date of July 1, 2017, to provide adequate time for all affected university units and constituents to transition to the new regulations. Nursing professor Elizabeth Click, who also leads university wellness initiatives, began coordinating the implementation process in early August of 2016.
Among the initiatives is a new website, case.edu/tobaccofree, which provides details about the policy as well as information regarding online, campus and community resources to assist tobacco users in quitting. The university has offered regular tobacco-cessation courses for the past several years, and also held campus-wide information sessions about the tobacco-free initiative for more than two years.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control reports that tobacco use is the nation’s leading cause of preventable diseases, disabilities and death. Each year, nearly 500,000 people in this country die early from smoking and/or exposure to secondhand smoke. In addition, about 16 million people in the U.S. live with a serious smoking-related illness; the nation spends almost $170 billion annually to treat these illnesses in adults.
The process of developing the smoke-free policy dates back more than five years, starting when President Barbara R. Snyder asked Undergraduate Student Government (USG) leaders to help the administration get a better sense of student attitudes regarding tobacco use. Since that time, USG has conducted one survey (where 59 percent of respondents favored a smoke-free campus) and a non-binding vote (where 52 percent of students favored going tobacco-free). The university also presented draft versions of the policy to USG and graduate and professional students, as well as the Staff Advisory Council and Faculty Senate. In January of 2016, the Faculty Senate voted to endorse the policy. In the spring of 2016, USG held another vote regarding the proposed policy, where pluralities (45 percent) supported the proposed policy and banning traditional tobacco, although 41 percent opposed the policy.
Throughout the past academic year, students, staff and faculty have served on various subcommittees charged to address implementation issues ranging from updating contract requirements for vendors who come on campus to orientation materials for incoming students. In the weeks ahead, campus buildings and open areas will see new signage regarding the policy; meanwhile, those with questions are encouraged to visit case.edu/tobaccofree.