Loyola U.-New Orleans wants to protect students from themselves

Loyola University New Orleans wants to protect non-smokers from the health risks associated with exposure to tobacco smoke, so it is banning the use of chewing tobacco on campus.

All public colleges and universities in Louisiana were required by state law to adopt a smoke-free policy for their campuses as of August 1, and although the mandate does not apply to private institutions, Loyola opted not only to voluntarily follow suit, but to implement a far more restrictive policy than is mandated for its public counterparts.

"At Loyola, we are committed to providing a safe, healthy and comfortable environment for our faculty, staff and students," University president Fr. Kevin Wildes, S.J. explained in a July 31 press release. "We have worked hard to build awareness and understanding of the new policy on campus and look forward to 'sharing clean air' on a smoke-free campus."

Act 211, which was passed by the Louisiana Legislature in 2013, requires public universities to adopt smoke-free policies that prohibit “inhaling, exhaling, burning, carrying, or possessing any lighted tobacco product, including cigarettes, cigars, pipe tobacco, and any other lighted combustible plant material.” The law also states that schools are free to adopt a stricter tobacco-free policy that prohibits “the use of tobacco-derived or -containing products.”

Loyola, however, took the idea even one step further, “banning the use of all tobacco products, including e-cigarettes and chewing tobacco,” upon the threat of a $25 fine or other disciplinary measures the administration deems appropriate.

The policy was promoted through an informational campaign called “Let’s Share Clean Air,” and was “inspired by the Jesuit commitment to cura personalis, or ‘care of the entire person’.” Loyola clarifies its reasoning in an online FAQ sheet, which states that the policy was adopted with the dual purposes of reducing consumption among tobacco users and protecting non-smokers from exposure to tobacco smoke.

In addition to banning the on-campus use of tobacco products that generate secondhand smoke, the school also forbids students and faculty from indulging in products that are not associated with damaging health consequences for others.

Loyola defends its decision to ban e-cigarettes, for instance, by pointing out that they “have not been fully studied,” preventing consumers from knowing their potential risks, including that they “could lead to actual cigarette use.” The university also cites the precedent set by countries that prohibit the use of e-cigarettes wherever a cigarette ban is in place, such as France, Panama, Uruguay, and Colombia.

Even without smokeless alternatives, though, tobacco users are not entirely without recourse, as the policy only covers university property, and specifically “does not apply to public rights-of-way on the perimeter of any campus location,” including the streets and sidewalks of public roads bordering campus.

Smokers could also hypothetically pursue their habit at other barely-off-campus locations, though “Loyola believes that the members of its community who choose to use tobacco will do so respectfully by means of keeping litter and smoke away from neighboring properties.”

The school may even have good cause for its optimism. Not only was the smoke-free policy pioneered by Loyola’s Student Government Association, but Loyola has also received $18,000 in grants to support its efforts from The Louisiana Campaign for Tobacco-Free Living, a tobacco control program funded by a state excise tax on tobacco and administered by the Louisiana Public Health Institute.

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