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The Northern Kentucky University Board of Regents voted unanimously today to direct the adoption of a tobacco-free campus policy.
The board’s action authorizes NKU President Geoffrey Mearns to develop the details of the policy and to appoint a Tobacco-Free Campus Task Force to develop recommendations for the transition and the policy’s implementation. The transition process will include students, faculty, staff and visitors, and could take up to 18 months.
Mearns said this action reflects the university’s ongoing commitment to supporting an environment that is clean, healthy and safe for all. “NKU has been consistently recognized for its commitment to health and wellness,” Mearns said. “Today we begin the next step toward improving our campus atmosphere. Our goal is to provide a healthy environment for our students and, in turn, a healthy workforce for local employers.”
Tobacco use remains the single-most preventable cause of death and disease in the United States. The surgeon general’s 2004 and 2006 reports warned that no level of smoke is safe. And the economic impacts of this reality are alarming – according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, total annual healthcare expenditures and lost productivity caused by tobacco use is in excess of $193 billion, with $1.2 billion per year lost in Kentucky alone. Additionally, annual health care expenditure costs solely from secondhand smoke exposure are estimated to be in the range of more than $10 billion per year.
NKU, which began restricting campus smoking to designated smoking areas in 2006, joins a list of over 1,130 US colleges and universities with smoke- or tobacco-free policies in place. Among Kentucky’s public institutions, NKU is the third to implement a tobacco-free policy. The University of Kentucky went tobacco-free in November 2009 and Morehead State University did so in June 2011. The University of Louisville is a smoke-free campus.
In 2009, the American College Health Association adopted a “no tobacco use” policy, encouraging colleges and universities to be diligent in their efforts to achieve campus-wide tobacco-free environments. Universities aren’t the only organizations making the transition. More than 48 percent of the US population is now protected by 100 percent smoke-free workplace, restaurant and bar laws. As of November 2012, 31.4 percent of Kentuckians were covered by these comprehensive workplace laws and regulations. In Northern Kentucky, Kenton County has adopted a smoke-free law and a number of significant employers, including St. Elizabeth HealthCare, have enacted tobacco-free policies.
NKU was named the healthiest employer (1,000-4,999 employees) in Greater Cincinnati by the Cincinnati Business Courier in 2011 and 2012. The adoption of a tobacco-free policy is the natural next step in the university’s ongoing efforts to promote health and healthy living.
“Our culture of health is creating an environment in which employees are choosing to make healthier lifestyle choices, and are freely accessing the comprehensive support that is available to them,” Mearns said. “As leaders in our community, we have both an opportunity and a responsibility to act – to further protect the health of our students, employees and visitors; to further support the expectation that living, learning and working environments be tobacco-free; and to be fiscally accountable by doing our part in reducing the enormous economic burden that tobacco use has on our society.”