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Dec 02, 2013 03:06 PM EST

Bill Seeks To Ban Tobacco Use On New Mexico State University Campus

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A smoking and tobacco ban could be implemented at New Mexico State University by next summer, the Associated Press reported.

According to the AP, the effort to develop such a policy stems from a memorial bill passed during the last legislative session which asked school officials of public postsecondary educational institutions in New Mexico to implement a tobacco-free campus policy in July 1.

Tilahun Adera, dean of the university's College of Health and Social Services, told the AP that more than 1,100 colleges and universities across the United States already have smoke-free campuses and 800 campuses have a tobacco-free policy.

"This growing trend is due to the increasing recognition of the health hazards of tobacco products, including the fact that cigarette smoking remains the leading preventable cause of death in the United States and is responsible for one out of every five deaths," Adera said.

In 2009, The University of New Mexico adopted a policy that prohibits smoking and the use of tobacco products except in designated smoking areas. According to the university's policies and procedures manual, that policy applies to cigarettes, cigars, pipes, smokeless tobacco, electronic cigarettes and other tobacco products,

The university's Department of Public Health Sciences has received a $123,000 grant from the Paso del Norte Health Foundation to facilitate a policy change at NMSU and Dona Ana Community College.

"Tobacco-free policies are effective in decreasing smoking rates and preventing the initiation of tobacco use," Jana Renner, the foundation's associate program officer, told the AP. "New Mexico State University's effort to create a tobacco-free campus complements this goal by protecting students, faculty and staff from the effects of secondhand smoke and promoting healthy social norms and behaviors."

The initiative at New Mexico State University would ultimately have to be approved by the Board of Regents.

 Advocates who support implementing the policy at the state university told the AP they plan to first increase awareness around tobacco health risks and build support among the community and the university's administration. The next step will be assessing current attitudes and behavior and use of tobacco products among NMSU students, faculty and staff.

"If the policy is adopted by the university, then at some point it will go into the student handbook," Susan Wilson, an associate public health sciences professor, told the AP. "But we're going to make sure that people are well-advised, well in advance of any needed behavioral changes."

The university currently has a policy that complies with New Mexico's Clean Indoor Act, prohibiting smoking in all buildings and within 25 feet of entrances, exits and vehicles, as well as during some organized outdoor events on NMSU property.

If the new policy smoke-free and tobacco policy is implement, any use of tobacco on campus would be forbidden.

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