News 12 First at Five / Wednesday, March 20, 2013
AUGUSTA, Ga. (WRDW) -- March 20th is National Kick Butts Day. Almost 1,300 events were planned across the country to motivate people to quit smoking and using tobacco products. One of those events was right here in Augusta.
"Tobacco is one of the leading causes of deaths in the United States," said a speaker at Wednesday's event.
With National Kick Butts Day in full swing, GRU decided it was the perfect time to announce its new policy for tobacco on campus.
"A whole campus that is free of tobacco use. Which means there will be no areas within the university or within the campus where people can smoke in," said Dr. Samir Khleif, director of the Cancer Center at GRU.
And don't think if you chew tobacco you're off the hook.
"Tobacco is harmful. Smokeless or with smoke. It's a very harmful substance. Smokeless tobacco can cause cancers of the head and neck," Khleif said.
Freshman Taylor Awalt says she can't argue with the dangers of tobacco use but does wish the policy change would have been handled differently.
Awalt says students were left out of the process.
"They didn't really ask us how we felt. They just said there's going to be absolutely no smoking and you're going to have to deal with it," Awalt said.
The freshman says what make the decision worse is that suggestions by the students were turned down.
"We even signed a petition asking to not have it banned and that didn't go through either," Awalt said.
Khleif says the new policy will help promote a healthier lifestyle for students and if everyone is not ready to take that step toward health now, the cancer center will provide help when they are ready.
"We hope that people can stop now, rather than 10 years from now," Khleif said.
Khleif added that this isn't about taking liberties away from smokers, it's about protecting the health of non-smokers on campus. The policy will take effect Aug. 1.
Initially, people will get a friendly reminder, but the compliance committee is working out what penalty folks will be hit with if caught with tobacco after the grace period.