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University Leaders Push Bill To Allow Tobacco Bans On Campus

A bill that was previously approved unanimously by the state Senate received criticism as hypocritical by some Republicans in the Assembly this week.

SB 339, sponsored by state Sen. Debbie Smith, D-Sparks, would allow college officials the right to ban the use of tobacco products anywhere on campus. Tobacco is already not allowed inside college buildings, and similar blanket bans are in effect for K-12 campuses.

But Assemblyman Ira Hansen, R-Sparks, criticized the bill, saying that taxes collected from the sale of tobacco go to support the funding of higher education in the state.

Marc Johnson, president of the University of Nevada, Reno, disagreed with Hansen, saying the logic in Hansen’s argument doesn’t work both ways.

“When it comes to taxes, the converse of the argument that reducing smoking would reduce tax revenues, the converse of that is that we should promote smoking so we could generate tax revenues, which I don’t think is what the states want to do either,” Johnson said.

Officials from UNLV and the College of Southern Nevada also were supportive of the legislation to have the option to ban tobacco should they decide to do so.

“The other campuses have not gone in that direction yet, but they do support the option,” Johnson said.

Marc Johnson, president, University of Nevada, Reno

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Prior to taking on the role of Broadcast Operations Manager in January 2021, Rachel was the senior producer of KNPR's State of Nevada program for 6 years. She helped compile newscasts and provided coverage for and about the people of Southern Nevada, as well as major events such as the October 1 shooting on the Las Vegas strip, protests of racial injustice, elections and more. Rachel graduated with a bachelor's degree of journalism and mass communications from New Mexico State University.