Committee proposes banning on-campus tobacco sales

by Mickie Barg

Cigarette sales will cease at the University if the Twin Cities Student Unions approve a recommendation drafted Tuesday at a meeting of the Tobacco, Alcohol and Other Drugs Committee.
The proposal is to be presented to the Union Board by mid-December, with a decision to stop or continue selling tobacco products at the West Bank Skyway Store and the St. Paul Student Center to follow soon after.
These two locations are the only places on campus where people can purchase cigarettes and chewing tobacco.
This is the first time the committee has considered such a recommendation, although it has been under discussion for about a year, said Student Union Board of Governors President Lance Patrick.
“We thought we would make a more formal recommendation to (the Student Unions) this year to see if we could get them to respond in a positive way,” said committee chair and Boynton director Edward Ehlinger. “If they choose not to discontinue sales we would like to understand their reasoning why.”
Although student health is a major concern, the Student Unions’ revenue figures are also an issue.
“We probably net approximately $30,000 annually and we estimate there are some other items bought while they buy tobacco — if included, revenue might be about $60,000 total,” said Twin Cities Student Union associate director Denny Olsen.
Patrick said the revenue lost would have to be replaced from another source.
This is not the first time tobacco issues have been raised at the University. In 1992, the school banned smoking inside campus buildings, and tobacco sales were considered a minor factor in that decision.
“Tobacco use among college students has become a increasing priority nationally,” Ehlinger said. “We thought that we could start to work locally on what we could do about it, and one of the things we can do is eliminate sales on campus.”
The committee unanimously agreed to support a ban on tobacco sales, although it likely will not have a significant role in curbing tobacco use among students.
“We consider this an important issue and it has been shown that any kind of barriers help people get off the habit of tobacco,” Ehlinger said. “This is just a small step in the multiple steps that need to be taken.”
Others see no problem with selling tobacco but say they will abide by whatever the committee recommends.
“We do sell cigarettes, but we do not advertise,” Patrick said. “They are under a glass counter and we do card.
“Selling cigarettes is a service and convenience that we offer to students and the University community who choose to smoke and are over 18.”
Committee members involved in the decision come from on- and off-campus with an interest and some expertise in alcohol, tobacco and other drug issues. The committee represents several different viewpoints, including judicial affairs, athletics, unions, the police department and health departments.
Mickie Barg covers health and welcomes comments at [email protected] She can also be reached at (612) 627-4070 x3223