MANATEE -- As students begin preparing for the new semester and working on their New Year's resolutions, the University of South Florida Sarasota-Manatee will be going smoke and tobacco free.
USF Sarasota-Manatee announced Thursday the school will change its policy effective Jan. 6 to ban all tobacco and smoking products, including electronic cigarettes, from all campus areas.
Rick Lyttle, director of facilities, said the new policy was approved in November by the University of South Florida Sarasota-Manatee Board of Trustees.
The new policy matches those already in existence at two other USF campuses, said Ruth Lando, USF Sarasota-Manatee director of communications.
"We are the third campus to go in this direction," Lando said. "It's for the health and safety and well-being of the entire campus population."
The policy includes all smoke-related paraphernalia, including e-cigarettes, pipes and hookahs.
Rebecca Gutherz, a senior at USF Sarasota-Manatee and president of the
Student Government Association Campus Activities Board, said students and employees had brought up the issue before.
"There are cigarette butts on the ground, and some people had been using the e-cigarettes in classrooms," Gutherz said. "It is uncomfortable for other students around them."
As a former smoker for nine years, Gutherz said she can understand both sides of the policy change.
"The students that do smoke are not happy. There is no smoking anywhere on campus, so they will have to leave if they want to smoke," Gutherz said. "There may be some pushback when students come back, but I don't think it will be an issue after that."
Gutherz said she is glad the school is going straight for a smoke-free policy, as designated smoking areas have proven difficult to regulate.
The new policy was crafted by the university administration after polling students.
Lando said the majority of students interviewed were in favor of the tobacco ban.
USF Sarasota-Manatee follows in the non-smoking footsteps of the USF Health campus and the St. Pete campus, which implemented its tobacco policy in August. The State College of Florida has also been smoke and tobacco free since 2011. USF St. Pete and State College of Florida policies prohibit the use of electronic cigarettes.
USF Sarasota-Manatee is providing students, faculty, staff and visitors a variety of resources designed to help them on the path to a healthier lifestyle. Student health services at the university now offers free smoking cessation counseling for all USF students and employees.
Lando said the university is using resources from the Tobacco Free Florida movement.
"The idea is not to be punitive, but to help people who want to quit do so," Lando said.
Erica Earl, education reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7081.