A WSU tobacco-free campus may follow national trend with outcome of votes

PULLMAN, WA - Should Washington State University go tobacco-free?
More than 800 college campuses across the nation have already made the switch, and WAZZU is considering joining in on the trend.

Reporter Rachel Dubrovin explains why it's a possibility, and tells us what WSU administrators and students think of the idea.

Here on the Washington State University campus, people are talking about tobacco. Next week, the student government will ask Cougs to vote on a campus-wide tobacco ban.

"Such a policy would prohibit any substance with tobacco including cigarettes, hookah, e-cigarettes, and chewing tobacco," said ASWSU Senator Dakota Renz.

Currently, WSU follows the state law and prohibits smoking within 25-feet of a building's entrance. The Associated Students of Washington State University are exploring the tobacco-free concept, which would allow the university to avoid spending money on costly designated smoking areas.

"This is a growing trend across the nation," said ASWSU Senator Avery Maxwell.

Doctor Bruce Wright of WSU's Health and Wellness Services explained that a tobacco ban would create a healthier environment, and reduce health risks associated with second-hand smoke.

"Risk for cancer, risk for heart disease, risk for pulmonary diseases The data on the passive smoking is very startling in that respect." said Wright.

Campus-wide surveys indicate the number of students who use tobacco is pretty low.

"We're looking at smoking rates of 15-percent, 10-15-percent," said Wright.

But for many Cougs... it's about losing the right to choose.

"The ones who don't even know about it, who haven't heard about it, the ones who live off campus who come here and smoke but they don't know, I mean, their choice is being taken away," said WSU Student Samantha Kieling.

WSU Police Chief Bill Gardner said a tobacco free policy would be tough for police to enforce, but he said if it passes, people will likely comply.

"Even if you're a police officer, enforcing an RCW, a state law, you're going to start with the most gentile means of trying to get compliance," said Gardner. "The idea is to get compliance, and not to drag people around in handcuffs."

If this referendum is accepted, it wouldn't go into effect for at least a year. And if it's rejected the ASWSU will likely consider a different policy that limits tobacco use on campus.

Washington State University students will be asked to vote next Tuesday and Wednesday, and we'll be sure to keep you updated on what they decide.

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