Our View: Schools know, tobacco-free the way to go

The leadership at Louisiana College, LSU of Alexandria, Central Louisiana Technical Community College, as well as more than 20 other institutions of higher learning across the state, should be commended for developing a campus-wide, tobacco-free policy that is already in place, or will be by August 1.

With the passage of Act 211 last year, Louisiana became the fourth state in the nation to mandate that all public college and universities enact policies to be smoke-free.

Locally, LC, LSU-A and CLTCC all went a step further by banning not only smoking, but the use of all tobacco products on campus.

“As of August 1, Central Louisiana will be 100 percent tobacco-free as far as institutions of higher education,” noted Jennifer Gilchrist, a regional manager for The Louisiana Campaign For Tobacco Free Living. That is when the policy takes effect at LSU-A. LC enacted a tobacco-free stance in 2011, shortly after Alexandria’s adoption of smoke-free workplaces. CLTCC also already has a tobacco-free policy in place.

As far as the decision to go beyond the no smoking mandate of Act 211 and go completely tobacco-free, Gilchrist said the schools are on track with the Department of Health and Hospitals’ “Well Ahead Louisiana” health initiative.

Well-Ahead Louisiana encourages organizations and individuals to make small healthy lifestyle changes to the spaces where Louisiana residents spend most of their time. Employers, schools, health care providers, universities, child care centers and restaurants can choose to seek designation as a WellSpot.

We applaud the leadership at these local institutions, and we encourage each to continue to move forward, ultimately earning WellSpot designation.

The movement toward tobacco-free campuses is not overwhelmingly popular with students, according to a 2013 report in USA Today.

That’s not entirely unexpected — but students will get used to it.

Just a few decades ago, smoking was considered the norm and many smokers protested the movement to ban smoking inside businesses.

Children and babies in waiting rooms endured second-hand smoke. Non-smokers in restaurants with non-smoking sections were forced to breathe the smoke wafting over the imaginary barrier between tables. Employee break rooms were hazy havens for those who craved nicotine.

Today, those situations are unusual. The culture has changed as the nation has come to understand the tremendous impact tobacco has on the health of smokers and those around them.

Congratulations and thanks to our hometown schools for going above and beyond what was required and putting the health of their students, faculty and guests, first.

They did the right thing.

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