Campus smoking ban starts Thursday
Michael Bernstein, 22, smokes a cigarette outside Library West on the UF campus Monday afternoon. A campus-wide smoking ban goes into effect on Thursday.

Smoke ‘em if you've got ‘em Gators, because in a couple of days, tobacco on campus will be a thing of the past.

Starting Thursday, UF will enforce a new smoke-free campus policy, designed to encourage healthy lifestyle choices among students, staff and visitors.

UF is the first public university in the state to adopt such a policy, although there are at least 394 campuses nationwide that adhere to such strict standards, according to the American Nonsmokers' Rights Foundation.

The policy prohibits the use of any tobacco products, even smokeless products like snuff or electronic cigarettes.

The ban applies to all UF-owned facilities, including those outside of Alachua County. Tobacco users will also be prohibited from using products in their cars on any campus parking lot or road. It also applies to university-recognized locations on the UF campus, such as fraternity and sorority houses.

The policy is part of the Healthy Gators 2010 Initiative, which is dedicated to promoting a healthy campus environment, according to UF spokesman Steve Orlando.

If caught using tobacco, violators will be reminded of the policy and asked to comply. Students who refuse will be dealt with by the Dean of Students Office, while staff members will answer to their immediate supervisors.

Repeat violators will face harsher consequences, although Orlando said punishment isn't the emphasis.

"There won't be a direct penalty for violating," he said, "but again, the goal is not to create a situation where we're going to penalize people . . . but to encourage people to be healthier."

Tobacco users may find the policy too strict, but it's like older policies that prohibit people from smoking indoors, Orlando said.

"It's going to be a cultural change over time," he said. "It seems strange and outrageous to some people right now, but in a few years it will seem strange to have ever smoked on campus at all."

D.J. Halford, 22, is an employee of Shands at UF and has been smoking cigarettes for years. He said changing his habits at work will be difficult and kind of annoying, but he accepts the university's oversight.

"It's like a restaurant," he said. "I think they're allowed to say what can and can't be done on their property. It'll definitely help me cut back, although I haven't quit yet and I don't really want to."

The first phase of UF's tobacco ban began Nov. 1 at UF's Health Science Center and all Shands at UF facilities. Ben Hill Griffin Stadium went smoke-free Sept. 5 by eliminating its smoking areas.