GRU's Summerville campus going tobacco-free in the fall

The Summerville campus of Georgia Regents University will become tobacco free by August. (WRDW-TV)
The Summerville campus of Georgia Regents University will become tobacco free by August. (WRDW-TV)

News 12 First at Five / Wednesday, Feb. 6, 2013

AUGUSTA, Ga. (WRDW) -- You can see the signs in the windows. They say "No smoking within 25 feet," but those restrictions are about to get stricter.

In a matter of months, the Summerville campus students won't be able to smoke at all.

"I want to transfer," blurted out student Miguel Cruz when he found out his campus is going tobacco-free.

It's a drastic response to what some students are calling a drastic change to Georgia Regents University's Summerville campus rules.

"When we say 100 percent tobacco-free, that means exactly it. Meaning no tobacco products on campus. Period," emphasized GRU Enterprise Project Manager Karen Ribble.

This comes as a result of the consolidation to become GRU.

The medical campus downtown has been tobacco-free since 2007. Come August, the Summerville and Forest Hills campus will be, too.

Pretty soon, urns with cigarette butts will be replaced with signs displaying "This is a tobacco-free campus," and it has some students fired up.

"To be honest, I think it's ridiculous," said smoker and student Michelle Snipes. "I didn't apply to that school. This is a change that's just happening to me, so in a way I don't feel like I should have to abide by their rules."

"I have a big test. I need to calm my nerves," Cruz admitted.

Other students are a fan of the change that will keep them from fanning smoke out of their face.

"I come out here to get fresh air, and sometimes when there's a lot of smokers out here, I'm coughing and having to breathe their smoke," student Robert Bryant said.

The school says the change is about more than a policy. It's about living what they teach.

"We do recognize it will be difficult for some, but the trend nationally is moving toward a healthier environment for students, a healthier environment for employees. This is a way of creating a generation of healthy students," Ribble explained.

The campus even plans to offer smoking cessation classes through the cancer center.

But even with the new initiatives, some are skeptical a sign will change behavior.

"Honestly, I doubt a lot of people will follow the policy," Cruz said.

Students can still smoke on campus until the policy becomes effective in August, but after that, they'll have to leave the campus completely to light up.

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