As referenced in my September 7 campus memo, after years of campus discussion, and in the face of increasing and convincing public health evidence documenting the risks associated with the use of tobacco products and exposure to secondhand smoke, American University will go smoke- and tobacco-free on August 1, 2013.
Our strong and increasing commitments to wellness, public health, and sustainability were taken into account as we determined our future on this issue; LEED building certifications also lend support for a smoke-free campus, as well as standards for campus cleanliness and less litter.
For years, AU has prohibited smoking inside of our buildings and confined it to outside areas at least 25 feet from building entrances. This has not proved to be satisfactory, however, as the effects of secondhand smoke are a proven health risk for nonsmokers. The U.S. surgeon general has determined that tobacco use in any form, active or passive, is a significant health hazard; environmental tobacco smoke is a Class A carcinogen. There is no safe level of exposure.
This ample lead time for implementation will allow us to define the full scope of this policy, make the provisions necessary for effective implementation, give smokers a reasonable transition period, and provide lead time for university publications and marketing materials.
I will soon announce the creation of an implementation committee, with membership to include both cross-campus representation and those whose responsibilities are directly affected by this new policy.
To assist with next steps, I refer to a document from the American College Health Association that is relevant to our efforts. And as we work toward next August 1, I anticipate that constructive campus discussion on implementation will continue in such forums as the University Council, the President’s Council, student meetings, town halls, and the Eagle’s pages.
Personal opinions on this issue are welcome, especially regarding the effects of a ban on those who choose to use tobacco. I assure you that our transition to a smoke- and tobacco-free campus environment will be managed with as much sensitivity as possible. Activities will include smoking cessation programs for anyone who wants to quit and an information campaign to address questions and further educate our community on this issue.
I appreciate the thoughtful perspectives of all who have discussed with us what AU should do about its smoking policy. Now that our direction is set, we welcome your creative ideas and assistance as we move toward our goal of a smoke- and tobacco-free AU in August 2013.
AU's strategic plan, Leadership for a Changing World, outlines goals and objectives for the next decade at American University. Visit american.edu/strategicplan for more information. (myAU.american.edu login required for some documents)