U of M poised to ban smoking on Twin Cities campus

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — The University of Minnesota's Twin Cities campus is on the verge of going smoke-free, even outdoors.

The University Senate, which includes faculty, students and staff, voted last week in favor of the ban. That resolution still needs the formal approval of University President Eric Kaler, who said he supports a tobacco-free campus now that there's strong support for it.

"Since this issue first crossed my desk, the lack of consensus had been one of the holdups," Kaler said in a statement. "That is no longer a concern. Frankly, it's about time for us on the Twin Cities campus."

Kaler said a tobacco-free campus has become an expectation rather than an innovation. In 2006, about 30 colleges and universities boasted smoke-free campuses. Now, more than 1,100 do, including dozens in Minnesota and three of the university's other campuses.

The ban could be fully in place by the fall of 2014. Schools often take a year or more to phase in a smoking ban as they educate new students, post signs and promote smoking-cessation programs.

"You're setting yourself up for failure if you move too quickly," said Ferd Schlapper, director of the campus student health service.

Other details remain to be worked out, including whether the ban should include chewing tobacco and whether public thoroughfares such as University Avenue should be exempted.

Katie Bobich, a Minnesota State Student Association member at Mankato, said her school's smoke-free policy only slightly cuts down on smoking and isn't strongly enforced.

"It's pretty much a slap on the wrist," she said.

Dave Golden, chair of the University Senate's Social Concerns Committee, said most campuses use communication and social enforcement to impose smoking or tobacco bans.

"We're not asking police to stand outside and give tickets or anything like that," he said.

While support for the ban is strong, it's not universal.

Smoking is a way for some to "gather their thoughts," said economics sophomore Matthias Merz. "It's a way to take a break."

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Information from: Star Tribune, http://www.startribune.com

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