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State may ease outdoor smoking ban at universities

Employee unions, State System of Higher Education in negotiatons for changes.

HARRISBURG — Smokers fuming over a three-month-old outdoor campus smoking ban at Pennsylvania’s 14 state-owned universities may soon get a reprieve.

Administrators at the State System of Higher Education are proposing to relax parts of the ban following recent discussions with three employee unions that have opposed it, system spokesman Kenn Marshall said.

The proposal would let employees smoke inside their cars with the windows up and permit smoking on sidewalks along public roads that pass through the campuses, Marshall said.

The system is also considering providing receptacles for cigarette butts on the campus perimeters, Marshall said.

“What we’re finding on some of the campuses is that’s where people are congregating to smoke,” he said Wednesday. “We don’t want them throwing cigarette butts on neighbors’ properties.”

System Chancellor John Cavanaugh ordered the outdoor smoking ban in September, when a new statewide indoor smoking ban took effect. Cavanaugh said he interpreted the law to include all campus grounds — particularly because some classes are held outside.

Darrin Spann, a liaison to the universities for the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Council 13, said he was encouraged by the proposal. The union represents about 4,000 state system employees.

“I think we are now miles away from where we started,” Spann said.

Kevin Kodish, a spokesman for the 5,900-member Association of Pennsylvania State College and University Faculties, said the union was in “confidential talks” with the system about the outdoor smoking ban. If the discussions yield no resolution, the union will go ahead with a Dec. 23 unfair labor practice hearing before the state Labor Relations Board, Kodish said Wednesday.

The 600-member State College and University Professional Association is also discussing the policy with system officials.

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