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ASUA to host open forum regarding tobacco-free campus initiative

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Lili Steffen | Arizona Daily Wildcat

Lili Steffen / The Daily Wildcat

ASUA is looking for additional student input on whether to support a tobacco-free campus initiative through a forum on Friday.

The Associated Students of the University of Arizona is hosting the forum in order to get feedback and opinions on the tobacco-free campus initiative that was introduced to the ASUA Senate last March. The initiative, which was officially introduced by the Student Health Advocacy Committee, aims to create an entirely tobacco-free campus.

The idea began with former SHAC co-director Emile Gordon. Gordon succeeded in creating a tobacco-free Arizona Health Sciences Center, which then sparked the idea of making it a campus-wide policy, said Stephanie Kha, a biochemistry junior and current SHAC director.

“It is more of a health initiative than anything. We purely care about your health,” Kha said. “The main goal is to promote a healthy, clean and sustainable campus environment.”

The UA Campus Health Service administers a Health and Wellness survey each spring semester to a random selection of undergraduate students. About 3,000 students were surveyed this year and, when asked if they supported a tobacco-free campus, 70 percent of the students answered yes, Kha said. However, students weren’t the only participants.

“We also wanted to see if faculty supports the proposal, as well. So over the summer, the UA Life & Work Connections group administered a survey through email asking whether or not they support a tobacco-free campus,” Kha said. “There was also a 70 percent favor in that survey. … A majority of staff supports it, as well as a majority of students.”

A resolution in support of a tobacco-free campus was voted down by ASUA Senate members last September. However, ASUA President Morgan Abraham said the resolution failed because the organization was seeking additional feedback from students.

“That is why we are doing this forum,” Abraham said, “to give senators and other members of ASUA the chance to listen to more student opinions and feedback in order to gauge whether students do support this or not, and whether we should keep moving forward with this initiative.”

ASUA released a poll about two weeks ago that is currently open to students, as well as different focus groups, in order to get a wider range of student opinions.

“With an issue like this, there is a lot of people who feel very passionate on both sides of this issue,” Abraham said. “Students will have a couple minutes to stand up and speak to all of ASUA and other students and voice their opinions and views on this issue, which well help us gauge how students feel about this.”

Rachael Patton, a criminal justice sophomore, said she is not in favor of creating a tobacco-free campus.

“Students at the UA should not have to give up the freedom of being able to smoke a cigarette, a substance that isn’t illegal, on campus just because they want a tobacco-free school,” Patton said. “This is a state university and there is no state rule saying that universities should be tobacco-free. It’s a choice that we as adults get to make.”

However, despite some student opposition, Kha said if the initiative were to be implemented, the university would fall in line with hundreds of public universities that have mandated a tobacco-free campus.

“By adopting this policy, the University of Arizona would essentially have a leadership role in healthy campus living — locally, regionally and even nationally,” Kha said.

- Follow Adriana Espinosa @adri_eee


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