Bemidji State University goes tobacco-free

BEMIDJI, Minn. (April 13, 2011) — Bemidji State University has joined a growing number of college campuses around the nation that have gone tobacco-free.

Dr. Richard Hanson, president of Bemidji State University and Northwest Technical College, yesterday signed a policy that makes the University campus tobacco-free, effective immediately. The policy prevents use, distribution or sale of tobacco, including any smoking device or carrying or any lighted smoking instrument, in university buildings or on university premises, or in university-owned, rented or leased vehicles. The policy also bans free distribution of tobacco products on campus or at university-sponsored events.

“Tobacco products” are defined by the University’s policy to include any lighted cigarette, cigar, pipe, bidi, clove cigarette, electronic cigarette or any other smoking product, plus any form of smokeless or spit tobacco such as dip, chew, snuff or snus.

The policy allows use of tobacco in private vehicles, as long as users demonstrate respect for individuals and the environment. The President or his designee may also approve on-campus tobacco use for instructional purposes in laboratory settings or classroom instruction or experiments, or for artistic purposes.

However, the University’s policy will not prohibit participation in University-sanctioned American Indian spiritual or cultural ceremonies held on campus.

“Soft” enforcement of the policy begins immediately with a goal of creating awareness for the policy and to encourage cessation. Firmer enforcement of the policy will begin during the Fall 2011 semester.

The President will be appointing an implementation team to assist the University in the implementation of the tobacco-free policy, as well.

Data compiled by the American Nonsmokers’ Rights Foundation dated April 1, 2011, listed more than 500 colleges and universities nationwide that had adopted policies prohibiting smoking and all forms of tobacco use everywhere on campus.

Bemidji State’s efforts to pursue a smoke-free campus policy began with a proposal from the University’s Student Senate in 2010.

“I was excited to see students engaged in campus governance, and was pleased to see attention to an issue that has been at center stage on our county, in our state and in our country,” said Dr. Lisa Erwin, Bemidji State’s vice president for student development and enrollment.

“The proposal also made sense to to me from a perspective that Bemdji has been a leader in our state to address smoking and tobacco use.”

Student Senate then completed a survey of students in the spring of 2010, measuring student attitudes toward smoking and tobacco use. That data was used to inform the process of developing a tobacco-free proposal for the campus.

A Tobacco Free Campus Work Group was established in the fall of 2010, and the group developed a draft policy beginning in January of 2011. That draft policy was presented to various constituencies on campus and revised throughout February and March, with a final draft presented to President Hanson in early April. The final policy was signed by President Hanson on Tuesday, April 12.

“I was excited to see the work of the group come to completion and receive the support of the President,” Erwin said of the policy’s adoption on campus. “We learned over the course of the year and a half that this policy has been under development that, at its heart, this is a matter of civility and respect. While the health issues surrounding tobacco use were certainly important to us, we hope this one policy could be seen as part of a larger campus commitment to the concepts of civility and respect that are fundamental to any community.”

Complete information about Bemidji State’s tobacco-free policy, which includes data gathered from the Student Senate survey, is available at