Campus News

April 30, 2011

University Senate approves tobacco-free initiative

The University Senate, at its April 26 meeting, approved the proposed policy initiative that would transition Emory's campus to a tobacco-free property, effective Jan. 1, 2012.

The recommendation was made by tobacco-free task force chairs and head of Human Resources Peter Barnes and Theresa Milazzo.

The policy stipulates that the campus will become tobacco-free at the start of 2012, following a focused campaign of communications. 

"During the fall semester of 2011, we'll continue to communicate why this policy is necessary, emphasize our cessation programs, and give tobacco users time to adjust to the policy," says Barnes. 

"We will also include communications about a new tobacco use surcharge to Emory's health plan premiums that will go into effect for faculty and staff effective in January 2012." 

Emory Healthcare implemented a similar surcharge on its staff in 2010. 

The Task Force launched a website that includes an opportunity for the Emory community to provide feedback, which many have.  The feedback is posted on the site.

Many of those who have provided feedback are supportive of the policy change. Others raised concerns, including:

• The short timeline prior to the Aug. 1 implementation date that was previously considered;

• Concerns about patients and families at Emory Healthcare who are on campus under especially stressful situations; and

• Adequate enforcement.

In response to the feedback, the recommendation includes having "smoking zones" that will be temporary and act as a transitional measure for those who are currently smoking, and trying to quit.  The number, location and duration of these zones has yet to be determined.  In order for non-smokers to avoid the secondary smoke associated with walking through the temporary smoking zones, the zones will likely be located away from public paths and building entrances.

The recommendation also reiterated that enforcement of the tobacco-free policy will be based on community support and encouragement rather than University punishments and fines.

The Emory policy changes occur as DeKalb County is exploring its own policy change that would prohibit smoking in all DeKalb County workplaces including those currently exempted from Georgia's smoke-free law: outdoor eating areas in restaurants; all bars and restaurants; long-term care facilities; private and semi-private rooms in health care facilities; parks and recreational spaces; convention facilities; and private clubs.  The DeKalb County Commission is expected to vote on its policy change later this year.

The University Senate recommendation, along with specific plans for implementation, will be presented to President Jim Wagner and the University Cabinet, who will act on it at their discretion.

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