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With resolution, MSA pushes for greater student involvement in smoking ban plans

Daily Staff Reporter
Published April 14, 2010

The Michigan Student Assembly gathered in MSA Chambers for their final meeting of the semester last night, and on its docket was a series of issues ranging from the campus-wide Smoke Free Initiative to the creation of a joint student governing council for all three of the University’s campuses.

At the meeting, the assembly passed a resolution in a 26-10 vote to push for more student representation in discussing the University’s Smoke Free Initiative, which is set to take effect in July 2011.

The University’s chapter of College Libertarians are spearheading the call for greater involvement because they say the smoking ban strips students and other members of the University community of their basic rights. The resolution states that MSA should appoint a representative to the smoking initiative’s Student Life Subcommittee in an effort to gain more information about the ban.

LSA junior Graham Kozak, the recently-elected president of the College Libertarians, helped draft the resolution. Kozak said at the meeting that he is frustrated with University officials — especially University President Mary Sue Coleman — who he says did not request enough student input before deciding to implement the initiative.

In a press release and columns in The Michigan Daily, members of the College Libertarians have identified Coleman as having an apparent conflict of interest due to her position on the board of Johnson & Johnson — a company that manufactures and markets smoking cessation products.

Kozack said if the allegations prove to be true, they could have large implications as Coleman is compensated for sitting on the company’s board.

He said the main reason for the resolution and the accusation of Coleman’s conflict of interest is that there is not enough information provided to the whole campus about the origin of the Smoke Free Initiative.

“We want to see what information the University has gathered in order to implement the plan and how the students and faculty stand on the issue,” Kozak said.

University spokesman Rick Fitzgerald said in an interview yesterday that Coleman’s position on the board of the company doesn’t constitute a conflict of interest.

“We are absolutely confident that there is no conflict of interest with President Coleman with her service on the Johnson & Johnson board,” he said.

Fitzgerald added that the company does not make the types of smoking cessation products recommended by the medical community.

“The medical community tells us that the most effective medical intervention to help people stop smoking is the prescription cessation product,” he said. “Johnson & Johnson simply does not make any prescription cessation product.”

In addition, Fitzgerald explained that the University has not yet determined if, when the Smoke Free Initiative is implemented, it will subsidize smoking cessation products or simply negotiate a discounted rate.

Fitzgerald added that with implementation of the ban more than a year away, the University is still finalizing the details.

“We’re still more than a year away from implementing this policy so there are many details to be worked out just like all the subcommittees are still at work determining the best possible way to implement this policy for this campus,” he said.

He continued: “Subcommittees will report back by this fall … leaving plenty of time for people to understand what that implementation plan would be.”

LSA senior Jonathan Slemrod, former president of the College Libertarians, said at the meeting last night that the resolution is about transparency and obtaining information about the ban.