UL-Lafayette going tobacco-free starting Aug. 1

The University of Louisiana at Lafayette will become a tobacco-free campus starting Aug. 1.

The ban on tobacco products stems from a state law that requires public colleges and universities to create and launch smoke-free policies by August.

The law also allows campuses to go a step further and ban the use of all tobacco products. The university decided to take that approach to address smokeless tobacco litter, said Joey Pons, UL-Lafayette associate director of public safety.

“A decision was made that if we were going to make a policy primarily dealing with secondhand smoke issues that we’d also deal with the smokeless tobacco issues, as well,” Pons said. “We have a constant challenge with people who chew tobacco leaving spit containers around campus and in classrooms and it’s a cleanliness issue.”

The policy is also an effort to support students and staff who are trying to stop using tobacco, he said.

“The premise behind this is to create a smoke-free, healthy environment for all of us,” Pons said. “If people want to quit, we want to encourage and support them in any way we can.”

Violators won’t get a ticket if they’re caught smoking — just a stern warning. However, repeat violations could get students sent to the dean of student conduct. And university employees who don’t follow the rules could face disciplinary action, Pons said.

The campus is launching a Breathe Easy campaign to provide information and resources for those who are trying to quit smoking or chewing tobacco.

There are a few exceptions to the new policy.

Smoking and tobacco use is allowed inside personal vehicles parked on campus property with the exception of university parking garages, and tobacco use is permitted in tailgating areas outside athletic facilities during NCAA events.

In addition, electronic cigarettes may be used, but not indoors.

Pons said he expects growing pains with the new policy, and an education campaign is now underway to get people used to the idea that smoking and tobacco products will no longer be allowed on campus.

A state law previously prohibited smoking inside public buildings and in schools and in 2010, the university prohibited smoking within 25 feet of its buildings.

Pons said more universities are opting for bans on all tobacco products. South Louisiana Community College and LSU will also ban tobacco starting in August. Southern University has had a tobacco-free campus for the past few years.

Pons cited a poll conducted in April by the American Nonsmokers’ Rights Foundation that showed more than 1,300 universities in the country were smoke-free and at least 925 of them were also tobacco-free. At least 167 banned e-cigarettes.

Follow Marsha Sills on Twitter, @Marsha_Sills.