Increasing number of U.S. universities institute smoking bans

smokingMore colleges and universities nationwide are beginning to think smoking is a real drag.

As of Oct. 6, Americans for Nonsmokers’ Rights — an organization that works to pass legislation against smoking in public areas – tallied 365 campuses that have implemented smoke-free policies, more than twice as many as the total of 140 in 2007.

Fourteen of these schools are in Pennsylvania, which prohibited smoking on all state-owned campuses in September 2008.

Additionally, on Nov. 19 even more schools either pledged to implement or implemented smoke-free policies to commemorate the Great American Smokeout. This annual initiative is sponsored by the American Cancer Society on the third Thursday of November to spread awareness of tobacco-related issues and encourage users to quit smoking.

In the state with the greatest rate of lung cancer, University of Kentucky decided to kick the habit, along with University of Louisville — where nearly 1 in 4 students are habitual smokers — on the day of the Smokeout. Both schools instituted campus-wide tobacco bans effective immediately for the University of Kentucky and in 2010 for the University of Louisville.

Rebecca Michelsen, health educator at the Center for Health Education and Promotion, said Marquette has been participating in the Great American Smokeout for at least the last 12 years.

Marquette’s smoking policies are in accordance with university policy UPP 5-02 and the Wisconsin Clean Air Act 211.

University policy prohibits smoking within 20 feet of all building entrances — except for areas specifically selected by Facilities Services for smoking — while state laws restrict smoking in certain publicly and privately owned buildings and on most types of public transportation.

To promote the Great American Smokeout, Marquette students drew chalk lines in front of university buildings to designate the 20-foot borders and to serve as a reminder to students of the smoking policies.

“Students don’t seem to know that it’s the law that they have to be so far away from the doors to smoke,” said Greg Pignataro, a sophomore in the College of Health Sciences. “Some people like to stand in the doorway and smoke, especially when the weather is bad. The chalk lines were a great idea.”

But will Marquette hop on the bandwagon and join the ranks of other schools that have incorporated comprehensive smoking bans? Michelsen said she thinks it is a possibility in the future.

“Currently there is a movement across many college campuses to become smoke-free or tobacco-free,” Michelsen said. “However, in order for either of those things to happen, there are a number of things that need to be looked at and taken into consideration.”

For example, Michelsen said it needs to be determined whether Marquette is ready for a ban, how it would be enforced and what kind of tobacco cessation services would be available for those who want to quit.

Nick Hiller, a sophomore in the College of Business Administration, smokes cigarettes and said he thinks Marquette’s current smoking policies are fair, though he said it would probably be healthier if there were a campus-wide ban.

“It wouldn’t affect my decision to go here at all (if Marquette banned smoking on campus),” Hiller said. “But I think it singles out a lot of people and is discriminating. A lot of people would be mad.”

Wisconsin is among 26 states that have adopted smoke-free laws to stem exposure to secondhand smoke not only in residence halls, but also in restaurants, bars and workplaces. Wisconsin’s smoking ban takes effect July 5, 2010.