Cigarettes are snuffed out at West Liberty University

WEST LIBERTY – A local university started 2013 by kicking an old habit to the curb.

Tuesday was the first day of West Liberty University’s campus-wide no tobacco policy. Students won’t be back on campus until the Jan. 12 weekend, with classes starting Jan. 14. The policy includes parking areas and all grounds on campus.

In addition to cigarettes, use of electronic cigarettes, chew, pipes, cigars, hookah or waterpipe smoking, snus and snuff also is banned.

Another local college, West Virginia Northern Community College, implemented its tobacco-free policy in November. The Wheeling-Ohio County Health Board a few years ago approved a county-wide smoking ban, but it did not include outdoor areas. A few businesses, such as Ohio Valley Medical Center and Wheeling Hospital, have instituted their own outdoor bans.

Jim Stultz, vice president of human resources at WLU, said university officials began mulling a ban in 2011, with the school’s board of governors adopting the measure in June 2012. Last fall, the school began educating its students and employees about the policy. It also offered smoking cessation classes and plans to do so again.

“Our stance is that tobacco use is an addiction issue and people need support,” Stultz said.

In terms of enforcement, Stultz said the university does not want to be confrontational with people, but if there are repeat offenders they can receive written warnings. The school does not have the legal authority to issue fines for tobacco use. Those who receive written warnings and still refuse to comply could face suspension or be expelled, he said.

Stultz said he smoked cigarettes, though not heavily, years ago while he was in college and in the U.S. Army. He quit the habit cold turkey.

“We realize for some it’s a struggle. … The habit is obviously not good for you,” he said, noting cigarette butts littering campus also had become an unsightly problem.

The campus bookstore will be selling nicotine gum and nicotine patches to help individuals kick the habit.