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Tulane going smoke-free; state colleges may follow

Students on Tulane's campus on Friday afternoon. Students on Tulane's campus on Friday afternoon.

New Orleans, La. — Tulane University may not be the only campus in the city where smoking will be banned, even outdoors.  A state lawmaker wants to prohibit smoking on the grounds of all state colleges and universities.

Friday afternoon some Tulane students relaxed outdoors with lit cigarettes in hand. But Tulane plans to shake things up when it comes to smoking.

"We will eliminate tobacco use of any sort on any of the university-owned properties," said Michael Scott Tims, director of Tulane's Center for Wellness and Health Promotion.

Tulane will become a tobacco- and smoke-free campus, through a phased-in process. Over the next year the university will focus on educating students, faculty and other staffers about the new policy. On August 1, 2014, no smoking or tobacco products will be allowed on any Tulane properties, including all campus sites, the Health Sciences Center, and the Primate Center.

For six months violators will be issued warnings, then on January 1, 2015, the university says $25 fines will begin. Dr. Tims said, depending on whom the violators are, community service and other consequences may be applicable.

"I think it's awesome. I think it's promoting healthy living on campus and that's really important," said Tulane student Michael Lewis.

"It will be nice to walk around campus and not have smoke being blown at us," said Sara Borkhart, a non-smoker and student.

Olivia Ludwig is a Tulane student who does smoke and she is perturbed by the new policy. "I'm a little upset that they're putting this new smoking law in place," Ludwig said.

Currently, the university has designated areas where students, faculty, and other workers can light up.

"I think that's a fair compromise, you know, there are designated areas you can go here if you want to and people who don't want to smoke, they can just not go in those areas," said Ludwig.

But the university said that did not work well.  "And that really hasn't been that effective for us, so we're going to a university-owned property ban, so we'll be eliminating within the confines of our property," said Tims.

Tulane said it is committed to programs that help students and staff quit smoking. The new policy also applies to visitors to Tulane.

Tulane is a private university, but state Sen. David Heitmeier, D-New Orleans, has legislation up for consideration next week that would affect smokers at public colleges and universities statewide.

"It's the right thing to do for Louisiana, it's the right thing to do for college campuses and hopefully we will take our kids and not sentence them to a lifetime of smoking," Heitmeier said in an interview with FOX 8 News.

Senate Bill 36 would prohibit smoking on the grounds of state colleges and universities, as well as all buildings and facilities.

"Second-hand smoke causes cancer and second-hand smoke sometimes is more dangerous than primary smoke," he said.

If the legislation becomes law, state schools in New Orleans such as Delgado, UNO and SUNO would be affected.

"As long as someone is outside then they should be able to smoke in the outdoors," said UNO student Jonathan Reaux.

"I think that there should be spaces provided for people to smoke to allow them their addiction or their necessity to smoke," said Fabiola Wollants, another UNO student.

"I would be opposed because I feel like outside there's a little more freedom, I mean people aren't constricted to sitting in class next to someone who's smoking," said Jae Labat, also a student at the University of New Orleans.

Senator Heitmeier's bill comes up before a legislative committee on Wednesday.

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