Colleges and universities in Ohio, Missouri, California, and New York are deliberating or have passed measures declaring bans on tobacco use on public college campuses. According to The Associated Press, bans on the usage, advertising, and sales of tobacco are being deliberated on approximately half of college campuses nationwide.
Previous measures on the matter impacted smoking inside buildings, or even in designated spaces, but new proponents on the measure say that is not enough.
A study conducted by the Surgeon General revealed that 90 percent of smokers started at age 18. 99 percent of smokers started at age 26. A quarter to a third of college students smoke.
But the Surgeon General believes that the numbers did not need to be so severe. Had smoking cessation campaigns, which had appeared in 1997 to 2003, been maintained, it would have eliminated as many as 3 million young smokers. Many such programs were eliminated or reduced with budget cuts.
Many of the measures have been enacted due to a growing public concern of secondhand smoke, as lung cancer cases of those who have never smoked are on the rise. New York’s City University system will ban use and advertising. California’s state university system will ban tobacco use in 2013. The University of Missouri at Columbia will follow suit in 2014. Higher-education officials in Ohio will be holding a vote on the matter next month.
But the move is not without controversy. Audrey Silk, the founder of New York Citizens Lobbying Against Smoker Harassment, says that such bans infringe on smokers’ rights. She argues that colleges and universities are there to educate, not modify behavior, and that higher education institutions use bans like these to shame smokers into quitting.
Tobacco companies are also naturally against such measures. Though they agree that smoking bans make sense in certain locations, like children’s playgrounds, they see all-out bans as going too far. They have had some limited success at making sure that anti-tobacco laws are only able to be enacted at the state level.
One of the earliest adopters of such measures was Springfield, Missouri’s Ozarks Technical Community College, which banned tobacco use in 2003. While they had initially limited their measures to simply smoking, they found that cigarette smokers quickly turned to other, more addictive alternatives to receive a fix of tobacco. They found that an anti-tobacco measure was more effective than bans on cigarette smoke.
Despite the controversy, it seems that anti-tobacco bans are largely voluntary. Violations come with very few penalties, though repeat offenders may be sent to deal with the school’s disciplinary system.
Approximately 711 colleges have enacted versions of anti-tobacco bans.