In accordance with the University System of Georgia’s new policy regarding the use of tobacco products on its campuses, Georgia Highlands College broadened its existing prohibitive policy. The new Tobacco and Smoke Free Campus Policy begins Oct. 1.
In March, the USG Board of Regents voted to ban all forms of tobacco use, including electronic cigarettes, at its 31 colleges and universities across the state. On its website, www.usg.edu, the organization explained the purpose is to create a health-supporting community for everyone and the policy is motivated by respect for campus members and their right to breathe smoke-free air.
GHC adopted a policy restricting tobacco use in 2004 that stated students of legal age, faculty and staff were only permitted to smoke in their cars. The previous policy also did not restrict the use of electronic cigarettes. Under the new policy, both are no longer allowed and will result in disciplinary action.
“We want to do everything we can to support student success. Promoting and maintaining good health are important aspects in the equation of lifetime achievement,” GHC President Donald Green said. “This revised policy only brings a small amount of change to our campuses. The college has promoted health through its tobacco-free policy for more than a decade.”
The USG released statistics that stated the use of tobacco is the “leading cause of premature and preventable death, responsible for more than 440,000 deaths a year in the U.S. Cigarette smoking alone is responsible for more deaths than HIV/AIDS, alcohol, motor vehicle crashes, homicide, suicide, illegal drugs and fires – combined.”
Students who are found using tobacco products on campus will be issued a violation and referred to the GHC campus life director for their location. Penalties for violating the ordinance will be determined during a disciplinary hearing.
Employees who violate the policy will be counseled on the infraction. If the behavior that resulted in a policy violation continues, they will be subject to progressive discipline, which follows these steps – verbal warning, written, final written and dismissal.
As a requirement of obtaining health insurance through the institution, employees must complete the tobacco-use certification and disclose whether or not they are tobacco users. If a GHC member falsifies the certification, he or she is at risk for a penalty, fraud investigation or termination from USG healthcare plans.
Ginni Siler, GHC chief human resource officer, said “The revision to our tobacco-free policy allows us to reaffirm our commitment to providing a clean, healthy environment for our students, faculty and staff and reflects GHC’s pledge to maintaining a strong, vibrant institution where everyone can grow and thrive.”