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Tobacco battle moves to Marshall

Student government representatives at Marshall University hope to make the campus tobacco free using a plan that would rely on self-enforcement.

The Student Government Association's Senate has approved a resolution to ban the use or sale of tobacco products on campus. Although the measure would not impose punishments, SGA President Ray Harrell Jr. believes it will nevertheless be effective.  

"If you impose this policy, eventually people will begin to accept it and just not smoke because they know it's a rule," Harrell said.

Many other college campuses have banned tobacco and rely on the self-enforcement method, he said.

In June, the Board of Governors at West Virginia University approved a similar campus tobacco ban. Although the policy threatens anything up to expulsion of students or loss of work for employees, a university spokeswoman said at the time she didn't think that would happen.

WVU President Jim Clements will designate the people in charge of enforcement, according to that school's policy.   

A ban enacted in 2004 at the West Virginia School of Osteopathic Medicine has been very effective, a university representative told the Daily Mail in June. On Nov. 15, a similar ban takes effect at West Virginia Northern Community College, according to the Associated Press.

The Marshall Board of Governors must approve the policy, and Harrell also wants the faculty senate to look it over, he said. Although the resolution met some opposition (it passed 11-7), he said a grassroots student movement has pushed for a tobacco-free campus for years.  

 "A majority of the student body has brought this up for years, and I wanted to address it how all constituencies deemed necessary," Harrell said.

For the last six or seven years, Marshall has surveyed students, faculty and staff about, among other things, tobacco use on campus, Harrell said. Consistently, there has been a majority in favor of limiting its use; last year, Harrell said 71 percent of students surveyed supported a ban.

The student government tried to address the issue last year but could not agree on a resolution. Harrell said during the summer, Marshall President Stephen Kopp asked him to create a committee to discuss tobacco use on campus and whether it should be limited.   

Consisting of Harrell and representatives from Kopp's office, student affairs, student housing and student health, the Tobacco Regulation Committee discussed the topic and presented a resolution to the Senate. "In order to provide a safe and healthy environment" for everyone on campus, the resolution bans all tobacco products and the advertising or sale of these products.

The policy infringes on the rights of smokers, Senate member Ross Gardiner said. Although he said he abhors smoke, the sophomore from Maryland doesn't think it's appropriate for student government to impose this belief on others.

"To me, that's just an inverted morality," he said. "I don't have the right to vote away other peoples' rights."

Others brought up the idea of designating smoking areas on campus or allowing only smokeless tobacco products. No one moved to include these parameters in the resolution, he said.

 Both Harrell and Gardiner said they notice people smoking on campus. Harrell said there are certain areas, generally around the entrances of main buildings or outdoor common grounds, where smokers are commonly seen. Gardiner thought the vast majority of students don't use tobacco products, though.

Harrell hopes the Marshall board will take up the resolution at its December meeting.

Contact writer Dave Boucher at 304-348-4843 or david.boucher@dailymail.com. Follow him at www.twitter.com/Dave_Boucher1.


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