University of North Georgia junior Ty Poole waved his electronic cigarette around while sitting in his car on the Gainesville campus.
“I guess it’s a good thing, if they’re just trying to get people to quit smoking,” he said. “But I guess in a way they could abuse their authority.”
Poole was talking about a new policy for all University System of Georgia campuses, banning all tobacco products on the state-run properties beginning Oct. 1. The ban also extends to e-cigarettes.
“I mean, I’m in my car,” Poole said. “It’s good that they’re trying to get everybody to stop, but I guess it’s wrong in some ways to overuse their power.
The University of North Georgia’s student code of conduct now reads tobacco products are permitted on nonresidential campuses “if the user and all contents remain inside an automobile.”
Poole, and many students on the Gainesville campus, take smoking breaks in their vehicles.
Tobacco products are allowed on the Dahlonega campus in designated areas.
“It’s still kind of a smoke-free policy, but it wasn’t a tobacco-free policy,” Acting Vice President for Student Affairs Janet Marling said. “And that was really kind of the focus on both campuses, to be respectful and keep it as smoke-free as possible but it didn’t go so far as to limit tobacco or tobacco products ... in (their) entirety.”
But the ban beginning Oct. 1 does extend to tobacco use inside of vehicles, Marling said.
“Therefore we will definitely be changing,” she said.
Many area campuses already had policies on tobacco. Lanier Technical College, which is part of the Technical College System of Georgia, is a tobacco-free campus, while the private Brenau University allows tobacco use in designated areas.
Marling said she expects some more clarifications from the University System of Georgia between now and Oct. 1, which may make it more clear if designated smoking areas are still OK.
“I think some of these unknowns may get ironed out by then,” Marling said. “When we think about our residential students, this is their home and so from that perspective it really does mean a complete change of lifestyle for those folks who were engaging in tobacco product use.
“I think it’s the commitment of the university to make this respectful,” she said. “Make it educational, make it an extension of our mission and not make it punitive.”
Students, even those who smoke, weren’t too concerned with how the ban would affect them, though they said they thought it should continue to be allowed inside of cars.
“I think that by them having a smoke-free campus, I think that’s a good thing,” junior Tonya Hagins said. “But I mean, if they want to smoke in their cars, then that’s their property.”