CONWAY (AP) — University of Central Arkansas officials are considering whether to request that their president's home be exempt from a new state law banning smoking at public colleges and universities.
The Clean Air on Campus Act of 2009 required that those institutions go smoke-free by Sunday, but the school's Board of Trustees made the law effective July 1.
University Chief of Staff Jack Gillean, who wrote the school policy, said it's "pretty straightforward."
"Thou shalt not smoke or dip," he said.
The university has banned smokeless tobacco products, too, although the state law only mentions smoking. Use of the tobacco products are considered illegal in off-campus housing, educational buildings, the College Square Retirement Community and the UCA President's Home.
A person can be fined $100 to $500 for violating the law.
School President Allen Meadors said he thinks the Arkansas Legislature will likely "reevaluate private residences. ... My guess is, if they had a governor who smoked, he would be able to smoke in a place where he is required to live."
Gov. Mike Beebe quit smoking cigarettes in 2002, although "he still smokes the occasional cigar," his spokesman said.
Jeff Pitchford, vice president of university and governmental relations, said there "may be a chance" to approach the Legislature in January about the issue and ask that the president's home be exempt.
"I'm not sure they thought about all the different issues that surround the bill," Pitchford said. "There are a lot of institutions that own a president's home and mandate that they live in that home."
Meadors said he doesn't smoke but that his wife, Barbara, is a "closet smoker." He said he's seen her smoke only once in 29 years, but never in the president's house.
Pitchford said he doesn't know whether the school's request to the Legislature would include university-leased apartments and university-owned houses.
"We haven't thought that far out," he said in an e-mail. "I'd rather wait and talk to legislators to see what they would be comfortable with before saying what additional property, if any, we feel needs to be addressed."
State Rep. Barry Hyde, D-North Little Rock, who sponsored the measure, said he didn't think about the chancellor and president homes when writing the bill.
"I relied on college officials to give me input. Nobody said a word," Hyde said.
He added that he had a hard time believing that any president or board of directors member is going to make a request that they would like the president's residence to be excluded from the smoke-free campus law.
"We all have personal rights, but when you're living in a state-provided residence, you give up some of those rights," he said.
Before July 1, UCA employees, students and guests couldn't use any tobacco in university buildings or vehicles, but they could outside if they were 25 feet from building entrances.
Lt. Rhonda Swindle, public information officer for the university police department, said that as of last Monday, only one warning citation had been issued.
"Our stance on it is that we're going to go over and give them a warning citation," Swindle said. "Repeat offenders, we will have no other option but to cite them, but we have not done that to my knowledge."
She said it had not been decided how many warnings a person could get before being given a ticket.