Smoking Issue Changes Focus
In his president’s report to the NMU Board of Trustees at its Dec. 12 meeting, NMU President Les Wong outlined a change in focus for the discussion of a smoking ban on the NMU campus. This fall, Wong appointed an ad hoc committee to look at the concept of a healthier NMU workforce and a clean air campus. The committee is being chaired by Lenny Shible (Health Promotions).
“As you know, we surveyed the campus last year about a possible smoking ban. Of the more than 2,000 responses, you could not have cut the outcome more cleanly in half if you tried. It was 50 percent for the ban and 50 percent against it,” said Wong. “Personally, I was a little surprised by the number of non-smokers who didn’t support a ban.”
Wong said that, through much discussion with various groups across campus, it became clear that finding a way to better enforce the current policy, which prohibits smoking in NMU facilities and requires a smoker to be 30 feet from a facility doorway.
“Already we have one residence hall (Meyland) experimenting with having specific doors where smoking is not allowed and where a person would know for certain that they don’t have to walk through smoke to enter the building and other doors where smoking is permitted 30 feet from the door,” Wong said.
Wong charged the committee to come up with a plan that outlines how the university can help motivate faculty and staff to improve their health, including such things as weight loss, increased exercise, stress reduction, improved emotional well being and a reduction in smoking.
“We know that when faculty and staff have a focus on a healthier lifestyle, students will often follow their example. Additionally, a healthier workforce would help us lower our healthcare costs and possibly increase health insurance paybacks to our employees. The committee has been asked to come up with ideas of incentives that might work with faculty and staff,” said Wong.
Wong added that while he did not give the committee a budget figure to work with, “it does not have a blank check. There would be a cap for the initiative, but the number will be impacted by the scope of the recommendations and the budget situation.”
The committee is expected to bring its recommendations forward by the end of the winter semester.