Fort Hays State University received a grant from the Kansas Health Foundation this summer leading to the creation of the Tobacco-Free Task Force, a group which seeks to achieve a tobacco-free culture on campus.

“We secured a $25,000 grant from the Kansas Health Foundation to further study the whole issue,” said Tisa Mason, vice president for Student Affairs. Mason worked as project lead for the grant proposal “Supporting Tobacco-Free Campuses” submitted in June.

The Tobacco-Free Task Force will use grant money with the goal of creating a tobacco-free campus. $8,000 provides for the consultation services of Ty Patterson, executive director of the National Center for Tobacco Policy. Other expenses outlined in the grant proposal include travel, marketing, signage, and a $3,000 evaluation.

Currently, it is against FHSU policy to use “tobacco products” or “electronic cigarettes” outside of designated parking lots, but this task force is currently evaluating smoking areas along with the overall tobacco use policy at FHSU.

The task force is charged to “strengthen FHSU’s current tobacco policy and move the campus toward achieving a tobacco-free campus,” according to a paper released by the President’s Cabinet in April 2014.

Revisions adopted by the President’s Cabinet in May of 2014 broadened the restrictions on tobacco products to include electronic cigarettes.

“In terms of electronic cigarettes, state statute or city ordinance doesn’t cover that but the university policy does,” said Ed Howell, chief of university police. “Whether you’re a faculty member, a staff member, a student, or a member of the general public, it applies to you.”

The task force was charged with meeting for the first time before Sept. 15.

“They had their first meeting last week on September 12th to discuss mainly procedural issues,” Howell said. Yet, currently “no action was taken.”

“This spring there was some conversation about ‘well maybe we should be a completely tobacco free campus’,” Mason said. “What we did instead, was leave the campus policy in place with the designated parking lots.”

“We will be updating the parking lot policy shortly because of the new Center for Networked Learning [Hammond Hall] building and designating the parking lot area,” Mason said.

In the meantime, enforcement of current policy applies to anyone on FHSU campus.

“It will be interesting if they make it a tobacco-free campus, because you have to take into account how that will affect smokers on campus, not only faculty and students, but also the general public,” Howell said. “How does that affect people attending sporting events, events on campus, the Beach/Schmidt Performing Arts Center? All of that comes into play, because if you invoke a policy that says that there is no tobacco allowed to be used on campus period, that applies to everybody.”

Members of the task force will attend a Forum on Tobacco Policy on Oct. 28. The current group plans to implement an education plan, send recommended revisions to Mason, and become a standing committee of FHSU by March 1, 2015. According to the grant proposal, the standing committee will then “adopt a periodic process of reviewing the activities in place and the strategies related to the compliance of the policy post implementation to ensure the campus effectively achieves a tobacco-free culture by April 1, 2015.”

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