Students continue push for tobacco-free UW-L - WXOW News 19 La Crosse, WI – News, Weather and Sports |

Students continue push for tobacco-free UW-L

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LA CROSSE, Wisconsin (WXOW) - Students on the University of Wisconsin – La Crosse campus continue taking the initiative to make the campus tobacco-free.

For the past month, UW-L's wellness coordinator and a group of health education majors have been hosting forums explaining their plan to ban tobacco use on campus.

They continued the series of open forums Friday.

"We're just a very health oriented campus and it's just such a good step forward," said advocate Rachel Helgeson.

The initiative is called Nobacco '13.

Helgeson, a UW-L junior, said she's looking forward to the end of second-hand smoke on campus.

"This is so clear-cut, 100 percent," she said. "The student body is in greater favor of it (because) bars have gone smoke-free, restaurants, so many place have gone smoke-free. Why not make our campus smoke-free too?"

The only exception would be the part of campus that borders La Crosse Street and Highway 16. Tobacco use would be allowed on the sidewalk because traffic is too busy to safely cross the road, said UW-L Wellness Coordinator Jason Bertrand.

Bertrand is spearheading Nobacco ‘13, and he knows, every plan comes with its opponents.

"Their main concern is that we're taking away the rights of students, we're taking away their freedom," Bertrand said. "So, that's one thing that we try to talk to them about the most. ‘We're not trying to take anything away from you. You can still use your tobacco products when you go off campus or when you go home or things like that.' In this specific environment, we need it to be tobacco-free."

Advocates also needs the approval of four campus governance groups.

If one of the groups doesn't approve the plan, Chancellor Joe Gow won't approve it. And this is not the first time a smoking initiative has been on his desk.

Current school policy requires smokers to stand 25-feet away from campus building before lighting up.

"It's a good chance it wouldn't go through," Helgeson said. "But we're really hoping and staying positive this time."

And a positive attitude is nothing to blow smoke at.

If the tobacco-free initiative is approved, it will go into effect July 1.

The last public forum outlining the Nobacco '13 initiative will be Wednesday, April 3 at 7 p.m. at 1309 Centennial Hall.

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