The University of Kentucky took the first step Tuesday toward a campus-wide ban on smoking, including all outdoor areas.
UK President Lee T. Todd Jr. told the university's Board of Trustees that he is appointing a task force to develop and plan for the implementation of a new policy making the university campus entirely smoke-free.
Smoking is already prohibited in and around the UK Chandler Medical Center and in university buildings and dormitories.
The new Tobacco-Free Task Force will be chaired by Ellen Hahn, a College of Nursing faculty member and director of UK's Tobacco Policy Research Program, and Anthany Beatty, assistant vice president for campus services. Todd said he will name additional members over the next several weeks.
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Hahn said she hopes the panel can start work sometime in January to plan the new policy, which probably would not go into effect until late next year.
"The experience around the country has been that you typically need anywhere from 8 to 10 months to do it right," she said. "It's important that we get as much input as we can from faculty, students and staff."
The interim would be devoted to an awareness campaign and doing such things as making help available for those who want to quit smoking before the policy kicks in.
"I think the university has been talking about this for some time; I don't think it will be news to a lot of people," she said.
Todd noted Tuesday that 160 other colleges and universities around the country already have an entirely smoke-free campus, indoors and out.
Many Kentucky colleges now restrict smoking. But, according to Hahn, UK apparently would be the first to go completely tobacco-free.
Several UK students who smoke said the administration can expect backlash.
"I'm smoking right here," said freshman Michael Roberts, who was perched on a bench several yards from the entrance to Holmes Hall Tuesday night. "If it's snowing, I might even smoke closer to the door."
"I'm upset about it," said Kelsey Stanton, a sophomore. "It's outside, so you should have the right to do whatever you want."
She said she lives off-campus, but that it would be difficult for her to go without smoking between classes during the day.
Brittany Welch, a freshman, said she wouldn't mind the change.
"I appreciate not smoking in front of people who don't smoke," she said. "As long as I can still smoke on the other side of the street, I'm OK with it."
The new policy is a natural follow-up to the UK Medical center campus joining other Kentucky hospitals in going smoke-free last month, Hahn said.
"That policy is going very, very well," she said. "We planned for a whole year to really do that right. We took our time, made sure everyone was notified, made sure people were educated about the intent, and that there was plenty of opportunity to quit smoking for those who wanted to do that."
Hahn contends that a campus-wide prohibition would be an important public health step because tobacco company advertising has targeted college campuses and college students in recent years.
She also noted that the city of Lexington's public smoking ban does not cover the UK campus.
"I applaud Dr. Todd and the university for taking this bold step in a tobacco state," she said.
Despite tobacco's historic role in Kentucky, Hahn said she does not expect the prohibition to draw much opposition.
"I think people understand how detrimental tobacco use is," she said.
It's yet to be decided whether the new policy would extend to UK's many off-campus facilities, which are scattered around the state.