Office of the Vice President for Global Communications

Monday, April 19, 2010

Statewide May 1 smoking ban already
university policy

The new state law banning smoking at all food establishments and workplaces effective May 1 will have little effect on U-M’s smoking enforcement policies, because smoking indoors on campus already is banned, university officials say.

“The university has had an effective ‘no smoking’ policy in our facilities for a number of years, thus the effect of the new statewide law should be transparent,” says Ian Steinman, U-M fire marshal and associate director of occupational safety and environment.

The implementation of the state law May 1 comes as the university pursues its own wider-ranging Smoke-Free University Initiative. President Mary Sue Coleman announced in April 2009 the plan for U-M to be an entirely smoke-free university July 1, 2011. On that date, university grounds and buildings on all three campuses will be designated as non-smoking areas.

“A number of people have been confused by the state’s plan and what is taking place on our campus,” says Dr. Robert Winfield, U-M chief health officer and director of University Health Service. “Essentially, U-M is ahead of this state ban, having adopted a universitywide smoking policy in 1987 that banned smoking in campus buildings.”

That ban included all buildings except residence halls. In 1998, the U-M Health System extended the prohibition to all grounds and public spaces. In 2003 the Residence Halls Association banned smoking in all residence halls.

In December, Gov. Jennifer Granholm signed the Smoke-Free Air Bill, passed by the Michigan Legislature. Effective May 1, the law requires all food establishments and workplaces to provide a smoke-free environment. Facilities can be found to be in noncompliance with the law if no-smoking signs are not posted in an area where smoking is prohibited, and if ashtrays or other smoking paraphernalia can be found in an area where smoking is prohibited.

Facilities also can be cited for: not informing individuals who are smoking that they are in violation of the law and subject to penalties; not refusing service to an individual smoking in violation of the law; and not asking an individual who is smoking to leave the facility.

Steinman says that once the university enacted its own indoor smoking ban, his office has received few complaints or concerns regarding violations.

“When we do receive a concern, we advise individuals of the policy and their options, document the information when necessary and pass along to the appropriate administrator for follow up,” he says.

“If or when we were to encounter active smoking within a prohibited area, we would, as a normal course of action, explain the policy and seek immediate voluntary compliance from the individual or individuals,” Steinman says.

The Smoke-Free Initiative is an outgrowth of MHealthy. The decision to become a smoke-free campus was made by the university’s executive officers after receiving a recommendation developed by Winfield.

Winfield says it was students from the Residence Halls Association who first approached him and others seeking a solution to the problem of smokers gathering outside the entrances to residence halls.

The university built time into the plan to allow for considerable input on how best to go smoke-free, in a way that considers smokers and non-smokers, alike. Students, faculty and staff, and members of the greater community are giving feedback to several subcommittees that will then offer recommendations for implementation to the larger smoke-free steering committee.

Part of the plan also is to equip those most affected by the change with tools to succeed, whether they choose to quit smoking or adapt to the new policy, leaders say.

The leaders say U-M will offer free behavioral counseling and are considering increased access to anti-smoking products.