Second life breathed into tobacco-free campus initiative


University leaders are reviving an effort to turn Pitt into a tobacco-free campus.

The effort is still in its early stages as Pitt’s Student Government Board is working on a resolution and is seeking comment from students, Senate Council President Chris Bonneau told members of the Senate on Oct. 9.

And a lack of student support, Bonneau said, is just the thing that prevented similar policies from being created in the past. With this semester’s effort, there seems to be more support from the student body and a lot more resources for smoking cessation programs as well.

In addition to the Student Government Board, Bonneau has spoken to members of the Faculty Assembly and Staff Council about the initiative.

So far, more than 2,000 universities have already gone smoke-free, according to the American Cancer Society, and of those, 1,805 are tobacco-free. Penn State and the University of Pennsylvania are among those schools.

With this information in mind, Bonneau said a tobacco-free initiative is long overdue at Pitt.

“It's not simply an anti-smoking thing,” Bonneau said. “It's much more of a pro-health thing. The obligation of a university is to look out for the health of its employees and the students. And this is a step it can take in that direction.”

Donald Burke, dean of the Graduate School of Public Health, worked with others to put together an initiative in fall of 2015. He handed the new initiative over to Noble Maseru, director of Pitt Public Health’s Center for Health Equity.

Masseru said he has been reaching out to various stakeholders to begin fleshing out the initiative more.

Since the initiative is in its infancy, it’s too early to tell just how the policy would be enforced and what specific changes would be made to Pitt’s campuses, Masseru said.

However, based on a draft policy, Bonneau expects Pitt’s designated smoking areas to go away, and if people are found to be using products on campus, they would simply be told to extinguish them.

Bonneau also is hoping the Senate’s Benefits and Welfare Committee will make a recommendation to Faculty Assembly sometime later this fall.

Masseru said he’s seen many changes in public attitudes toward smoking over the years and increased participation and awareness campaigns from large corporations, which would give this initiative strong support.

“I believe it is an acceptable intervention in today's culture especially in a university campus,” Masseru said. “We would think that mentality and that sense of value and importance of protecting folks who don't smoke and the unborn will be embraced here.”

Donovan Harrell is a writer for the University Times. Reach him at or 412-383-9905.