The Union Recorder

March 22, 2014

Movement against smoking felt in Georgia universities

The Union-Recorder

MILLEDGEVILLE — The University System of Georgia followed suit with what appears to be a growing movement this week as the Board of Regents voted to prohibit the use of all forms of tobacco products on property owned, leased, rented or in the possession of the University System of Georgia (USG).

The policy applies to all employees, students, contractors, subcontractors and visitors and is applicable 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Also, all events hosted by a USG-entity or on behalf of the USG shall be tobacco and smoke free, according to the policy.

Similar bans are already in place locally in areas such as downtown.

Other industries are moving this direction as well. Just last month CVS announced that the company will eliminate tobacco from its shelves nationwide, more than 7,000 stores, by October of this year, continuing a trail of actions to limit or eliminate tobacco sales where health products, particularly pharmacies, are operating. While on the business side this decision may be deemed detrimental to the company's bottom line, company officials have expressed that eliminating tobacco is more consistent with the business' wellness mission, allowing the company to better serve its customers and pharmacy and health care providers. Essentially, company President and CEO Larry Merlo said, “it's the right thing to do.”

So it seems fitting for a company that promotes health and wellness and whose slogan is “at the corner of happy and healthy.”

While many years ago smoking may have been seen as glamorous or fashionable, those days have long since passed. We all know by now that smoking has serious risks. Times have evolved and it is no longer the status quo.

Yet, tobacco use remains the single largest preventable cause of death and disease in the United States. Despite new discoveries and revelations in recent years about tobacco's impact, more than 480,000 Americans die from its health-related side effects each year.

And it's not just smokers who are affected. Smoking-related illness in the U.S. costs $96 billion in medical costs and $97 billion in lost productivity each year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

If other major retailers, communities and establishments like CVS and the University System of Georgia were to follow this trend it could save lives. The entities that have recently enacted smoking bans have done so on their own, without the government stepping in on their decision, and others should be afforded the same option.

We should all be hopeful, however, that others do follow their lead, putting the health of their consumers and employees at the forefront and staying true to the message many of them promote.

With their combined weight behind the message, presenting a unified front could drive home the message about this lethal consumer product and save countless lives in the process.