UH campuses on verge of going smokeless

The University of Hawaii at Hilo and Hawaii Community College might soon be smoke-free.

Lawmakers this week passed Senate Bill 134, which would prohibit smoking and tobacco use at every campus in the UH system. The ban also includes electronic smoking devices.

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The bill needs final approval from Gov. David Ige, who has until June 25 to declare if he has any intention of vetoing it. It would take effect immediately upon approval.

According to the final version of the measure, merely possessing smoking devices on campus isn’t a violation of the rule.

UH is responsible for informing students and staff about the smoking ban and is required to add “No smoking” signs around campuses.

The bill received strong opposition from many smokers at UH-Hilo, who previously told the Tribune-Herald that current places to smoke already are limited and they are not sure a ban would even work.

According to the bill, smoking and tobacco use on UH campuses create “substantial fiscal burdens on employee health care costs, absenteeism and turnover.” The bill says smoking also increases fire risk and makes maintenance upkeep more difficult.

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There are no designated smoking stations at UH-Hilo, though outdoor cigarette receptacles are positioned around campus to prevent litter.

At Hawaii Community College, smoking and vaping are allowed in most outdoor places at least 25 feet away from buildings.