By JAMES E. CASTO
For The State Journal
Both West Virginia University and Marshall University will ban tobacco use on their campuses as of July 1.
Meeting June 11, the Marshall Board of Governors approved a policy that puts a campus-wide ban on all tobacco products, including not just cigarettes but also e-cigarettes, pipes and chewing tobacco. The ban will take effect July 1.
Last year, the WVU Board of Governors enacted an all-out smoking and tobacco ban that, after a one-year delay, is scheduled to take effect this July 1.
The new Marshall policy stems back to a 2012 survey of faculty and staff. Of the 370 respondents in that survey, 74 percent said they would like Marshall's campus, including all university-owned grounds and parking facilities, to be smoke-free.
The ban came to the board with the support of the Marshall Student Government, Faculty Senate and Classified Staff Council.
A Marshall spokesman said there will be violations for offenders: for students, a violation of the student code of conduct; for employees, a violation of work rules; and possible disorderly conduct citations for visitors who blatantly disregard the policy.
However, the MU board did approve an amendment that can allow designated smoking at outdoor events where a large number of off-campus visitors are present, such as tailgating before football games. The WVU ban also allows administrators to waive the tobacco ban for large outdoor events such as football games.
A 2012 health survey indicated that 15 percent of WVU students and about four percent use other tobacco products
A 2010 report identified West Virginia as having the highest smoking rate in the nation, with an estimated 26.9 percent of adults ages 18 and over smoking. Tobacco use continues to be the leading cause of death and disease in the state, killing about 4,000 people year, according to the state Division of Tobacco Prevention.
In January, the American Lung Association issued a report evaluating statewide tobacco policies in the 50 states. States with polices deemed to be the best at protecting their citizens against the health hazards of smoking earned A grades in various categories. West Virginia received a failing grade in every category — funding for tobacco prevention and control programs, smoke free air, cigarette taxes and cessation coverage.