Graduates veto tobacco ban 

GPSA rejects current iteration of campus-wide anti-smoking plan

Nolan Lister | The Rebel Yell

The Graduate and Professional Students Association voted against supporting the Tobacco Free UNLV initiative during their monthly meeting on Oct. 3.

The council members, who voted 33 to 3 not to support the plan to eliminate tobacco use from campus, were concerned that the plan was too impractical.

“The legislation was too comprehensive and far too restrictive. I think they’re trying to accomplish multiple things at once,” said Jeremy Waller, graduate student in the college of criminal justice and GPSA council member. “If they want to pursue those items, they should approach them separately.

The initiative is trying to achieve a complete tobacco ban on campus, total cessation by university students and employees, as well as a ban on any research money coming from the tobacco industry, said Michael Gordon, GPSA president.

“Those are three different, distinct areas and [TFU] tried to put them under one blanket,” Gordon said. “I think that’s a big bite for someone to chew.”

Tobacco Free UNLV representatives said they have heard the arguments and are open to suggestions from the university community. Their goal is to create what their representatives call a “living document” that would utilize tools such as Facebook or campus email to crowdsource the new policy by incorporating student and employee feedback.

Nolan Lister | The Rebel Yell

During the meeting, Kristin Guthrie, a TFU graduate assistant, reminded council members that the initiative has also been working in conjunction with administration and that they will be working with the UNLV Policy Committee to co-author the policy.

“We do not expect Tobacco Free’s current policy will pass in the form that it’s in as a hundred-percent comprehensive ban,” Guthrie said. “We are very interested in adapting and compromising with our policy.”

The council members were not directly opposed to certain aspects of the plan, but did not agree with it as a whole.

“There seemed to be fewer outright opposition. It seemed like a lot of people here really liked parts of it but felt it was a little too comprehensive,” said Sarah Wood, graduate student in the college of science and chemistry and GPSA member.
“A lot of people would like to see it come back.”

The self-proclaimed grass-roots organization has been responsive and has listened to the concerns of GPSA over the last few months and the council welcomes a compromise from initiative organizers, Gordon said.

“From the start [Tobacco Free UNLV] has presented this all-or-nothing policy and I think that’s where the problems came,” Gordon said. “Now if they want to change it, they’re welcome to come back and present a new proposal and we would look at it, but it would need to be changed.”

Still, Susan VanBeuge, the Director of Tobacco Free UNLV, insists the current policy proposal is acceptable and mirrors that of more than 240 college campuses in the nation, including University of California, San Francisco and University of Kentucky.
“We will continue to march forward,” VanBeuge said. “We would have loved to have received GPSA’s vote, but I don’t feel that the 36 people who voted Monday reflect the sentiments of the campus.”

Nolan Lister reports on the GPSA for The Rebel Yell. Contact him at [email protected]