Missouri State working on banning tobacco

SPRINGFIELD, Mo. (AP) — Missouri State University wants its campus to be completely free of tobacco by 2012, and its trying to help students, faculty and staff kick the habit before then.

Smoking indoors at the Springfield campus has been prohibited for years. Since Aug. 15, outdoor smoking has been restricted to 26 designated zones throughout the campus. The plan is to remove those zones by 2012.

The phased-in smoking ban is designed to provide clean air to the campus while giving smokers time to adjust, said Sheila Bowen, the university’s employee wellness coordinator.

The university is stressing education, rather than enforcement, for now.

“We really try to be respectful” to both smokers and nonsmokers, Bowen said.

But some students and employees at Missouri State are not happy about the plan.

“If you’re of the legal age to smoke, it’s a choice,” said freshman Tyler McKown. “Isn’t (the tobacco ban) technically taking away your right?”

Bowen said smokers will still be able to puff away at home and off campus, adding that public streets through the campus will not be subject to the ban.

Marcus Dokes, a food service worker and smoker, said he’ll give up his smoking on campus.

“I have a choice: either losing the job or losing smoking,” Dokes said. “It’s your right which way you choose to go in your life.”

The new policy has already prompted more employees to seek help to quit smoking, Bowen told The Springfield News-Leader.

The university offers a free tobacco cessation program to its students, and a university health plan pays for a program to help faculty, staff and their dependents, Bowen said.

And it is posting the new tobacco policy, setting up information tables in heavy-traffic areas, and adding to Facebook discussions.

Ozarks Technical Community College and Cox College in Springfield are already tobacco-free, but the only other public four-year university in Missouri that is tobacco free is Northwest Missouri State University in Maryville.

Around the country, 254 universities and colleges have gone tobacco-free, according to an August report by American Lung Association in Oregon.

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Information contributed by: Springfield News-Leader, http://www.news-leader.com

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