By STEVEN NALLEY
Mississippi State University will host two open forums on a proposal to become a tobacco-free campus at 11 a.m. Wednesday and 2 p.m. Thursday in the Colvard Student Union’s Foster Ballroom Salon U.
The forum of MSU officials includes student affairs vice president Bill Kibler, MSU Health Services Executive Director Robert Collins, psychology associate professor Robert McMillan, health education and wellness director Joyce Yates, and tobacco cessation health specialist JuLeigh Baker. The officials will provide information and receive input on Kibler’s proposed policy revision that would end tobacco use on campus by August 2014.
The proposal must still go through staff reviews before going to MSU’s executive council for final discussion and recommendation to MSU President Mark Keenum, who would then be able to sign and approve the proposal. In the interim between the proposal’s passage and August 2014, the proposal calls for an extensive publicity campaign — helping students, faculty and staff make the transition through promotion of tobacco use cessation programs — as well as an interim policy revision that would designate specific areas for tobacco use near buildings to reduce second-hand smoke near building entrances.
Yates said the forum will follow a question-and-answer panel format, and the goal is to have an open discussion for students, faculty, staff and the community at large.
“We want to answer anything we can to enlighten people about what a tobacco-free campus is,” Yates said. “We just want to have a forum where a positive discussion can be carried on. We’re trying to present it at two different times to meet (the needs of) people who have different schedules.”
McMillan joins the panel as project director of the National Social Climate Survey of Tobacco Control and a member of an MSU task force whose research went into Kibler’s proposal. He said if MSU becomes a tobacco-free campus, it will join several others, including the University of Arkansas, the University of Kentucky and the University of Mississippi.
“Lots of places are already doing this,” McMillan said. “We have a (tobacco) policy that is several years old now that falls behind what several campuses across the U.S. are doing.”
Former Ward 1 Alderman Sumner Davis said McMillan also played a leadership role in advocating Starkville’s citywide smoking ban in 2006. McMillan said Metcalfe and Mayersville passed citywide smoking bans before Starkville did, but Starkville’s ban has done much to inspire similar bans in other, larger Mississippi cities in the years since.
“It really wasn’t until Starkville passed ours that we started seeing a domino effect,” McMillan said.
The indoor smoking ban in Starkville has shown that other similar measures can work elsewhere, Davis said. Vigorous debate preceded the ban’s passage, he said, but the ban has not been as contentious after its passage.
“A lot of restaurant owners (in particular) were worried about how it would impact their business,” Davis said. “They did not want to be the bad guys ... enforcing this. (So the board of aldermen decided) it would not fall on them; they just had to inform patrons. After it passed, it was a really smooth transition. The patrons complied. To my knowledge, we have not had any issues with enforcement of it.”