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Statewide ban on tobacco at public universities starts today
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Signs inside the University of North Georgia Gainesville campus student center remind students of the tobacco ban on all Georgia university system campuses starting today.

Cory Jackson, a freshman at the University of North Georgia’s Gainesville campus, was taken aback by news that all tobacco use will be banned on all parts of the campus, including inside cars, starting today.

“On campus, I’d say don’t do it, but in the car? Like, what?” he said. “I just think that’s so stupid.”

Jackson, who uses smokeless tobacco, said he feels the new rule goes a step too far. His friend, freshman Augustina Vasquez, is a nonsmoker, but she agreed.

“My friends, they do smoke and some of them dip and it really doesn’t bother me,” she said.

The new rule was instituted by the University System of Georgia and takes effect today for all public universities in the state. At UNG’s Gainesville campus, smoking was already banned everywhere except for inside cars.

The ban applies to all tobacco products, including smokeless tobacco and electronic cigarettes. Students, employees and visitors will all be expected to cease tobacco use while on any university property, including athletic complexes.

University spokeswoman Kate Maine said the change seems small, but may make a big difference for students and employees who use tobacco.

“For students who live on our Dahlonega campus and for employees who are on our campus for extended times of the day, that is an inconvenience,” Maine said.

However, she said she hopes the ban will lead to improved health for smokers and nonsmokers alike

“It will promote a healthy smoke-free environment across all our campuses. We want our employees and our students to practice healthy habits. It will also keep our campuses cleaner,” Maine said.

The change will be accompanied by an awareness campaign, and smoking cessation programs will be made available to both students and employees.

People who violate the new policy will be served with a warning and treated as any other violation to student or employee conduct policies. However, Maine said the university wants the change to be positive, not adversarial. 

“This is going to be an educational process,” Maine said. “We don’t intend it to be punitive.”

Across the Gainesville campus, students expressed bafflement with the policy whether or not they were smokers themselves.

“I feel like if you’re going to smoke, that’s your personal decision, but you have to stay in a certain area so that it doesn’t affect other people,” said Garrett Craig, a freshman who does not smoke.

Lauren Anderson and Tai Gaither, both freshmen and nonsmokers, said the policy makes them feel as if they aren’t being treated as adults.

“I think that’s dumb because it’s one thing if you’re in high school, but you’re paying for college,” Anderson said.

“You expect college to be different,” said Gaither.

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