Lawmaker renews efforts to ban tobacco products on University of Hawaii campuses

Hundreds of universities and colleges have banned tobacco products on their campuses and the University of Hawaii is looking to follow suit.

Smoking has been discouraged on the UH campus for a few years, but a proposal in the state legislature could make it illegal.

State Senator Kaiali’i Kahele told KHON2 he introduced the bill at the request of the University of Hawaii, but a local union said the measure violates worker’s rights.

Its been nearly two years since UH Manoa declared itself a smoke-free campus. We’re told overall it’s been successful.

“There are still some people who still smoke on campus, I see it occasionally as well,” UH spokesman Dan Meisenzahl said. “We don’t have a system in place where people can be cited.”

Now the university and lawmakers are trying to take the issue a step further.

If the proposal is passed, the use of any tobacco product would be banned at all UH campuses and facilities.

This includes electronic cigarettes.

“It’s been government leading the way with state office buildings, schools, and so I think this is along the lines of those efforts and these are things that are happening across the nation,” Meisenzahl said.

There’s plenty of support behind the measure including the state Department of Education, but the United Public Workers union is against it.

The union represents over 500 UH employees. In testimony submitted to the lawmakers, UPW argues, when it comes to collective bargaining, “the times places and circumstances under which smoking is authorized or permitted at work is a negotiable subject…”.

If the bill becomes law, those options are off the table.

UH said social norms are changing when it comes to tobacco use.

“Of course when students are college age, that’s when you can form bad habits so it’s good to have an environment where people can just focus on their education,” Meisenzahl said. “We’ve come a long way when it comes to tobacco use and we still have a ways to go so it just makes sense for the University of Hawaii campuses to be smoke-free.”

This issue is up for discussion again Monday morning in a public decision making hearing. We’ll be sure to let you know if it makes it to the end of session.

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