More than half of the Big Ten schools are saying no to tobacco.
When Ohio State implemented an enforced campus-wide tobacco ban Jan. 1, the university joined six other Big Ten schools that have already set forth or plan to put university-wide smoking bans into effect in some manner.
The University of Illinois, Indiana University, University of Iowa, University of Michigan and Purdue University also have campus smoking bans, and the University of Minnesota has a smoking ban set to take effect July 1.
Some campus bans restrict smoking only, while others extend to all tobacco products, as OSU’s does. Besides cigarettes, OSU’s tobacco ban includes tobacco chew, e-cigarettes, snuff and snus, which is a “spitless,” moist powder tobacco pouch, according to the American Cancer Society.
Schools without bans include Michigan State University, the University of Nebraska, University of Wisconsin, Northwestern University and Penn State University, which all prohibit smoking indoors but allow smoking on university property outdoors. These smoking policies typically exclude smoking within, at most, 25 feet of doors, windows or ventilation systems, as was OSU’s previous policy.
“The trend is growing in the Big Ten, but we still have a long way to go,” said Cliff Douglas, director of the Tobacco-Free College Campus Initiative and faculty member at the University of Michigan School of Public Health. “We still have a number of our campuses in the Big Ten that have yet to take this step.”
Some university officials said the bans and policies have been well received.
University of Michigan
The University of Michigan implemented a smoke-free policy in July 2011.
According to Michigan’s smoke-free policy, “smoking is prohibited in all university buildings, facilities, grounds, and university-owned vehicles.”
“It was popular with a strong majority favoring it,” Douglas said of the ban. “Certainly some people were skeptical or uncomfortable and you’ll never get total unanimity on … almost anything. But there was a lot of support.”
While Michigan’s ban is currently only a smoke-free policy, Douglas said feels “confident” the university will revisit the policy with the intention of banning all tobacco products.
“It was far from the first school to do this, but the trend has accelerated so rapidly that it wasn’t yet necessarily the norm to include all tobacco products,” Douglas said of Michigan’s ban.
He added that it’s more than just universities where people aren’t smoking.
“People don’t smoke in airplanes, they don’t smoke in movies — there are very few indoor places where people smoke. Smoking is really becoming unacceptable in so many places … that it’s rapidly becoming part of the norm in many places. That’s a cultural shift but I think people are becoming much more aware of the severe health impact,” he said.
University of Illinois
The University of Illinois implemented a “smoke-free campus policy” Jan. 1.
The policy states “smoking is prohibited on all campus property … both indoors and outdoors, in university-owned vehicles and in privately-owned vehicles parked on campus property.”
Michele Guerra, director of the Wellness Center at Illinois, said the policy was a “student-led effort” and approximately 70 percent of students voted on a 2011 fall referendum in favor of the university becoming a smoke-free campus. The chancellor announced in October 2012 that the campus would become smoke-free in approximately a year.
“Everyone has the right and now the ability to breathe smoke-free air,” she said. “I’ve heard lots and lots of ‘thank yous’ from people … particularly from people with allergies.”
She added that the implementation of the policy hasn’t been without problems, however.
“We’re such a huge campus. It’s really like having an entire city go smoke free,” Guerra said. “There are several streets that actually run through the campus that we don’t own so we don’t have jurisdiction over those streets. So even though we are a smoke free campus, there are a few patches of campus that, since we don’t own it, technically students can smoke there.”
University of Minnesota
University of Minnesota main campus’ impending ban, set to take effect July 1, on tobacco products was driven by health reasons and community support, said Dave Golden, director of public health and communications for Minnesota.
Currently, the smoking policy prohibits smoking 25 feet in front of doors or windows but the proposed ban includes all tobacco products, including e-cigarettes, according to the Minnesota Daily. No official policy has been announced for the university.
“We … know that the policies tend to have a positive impact on the reduction of startup (smoking) rates as well as reduction on the rates of people who work here,” Golden said.
He said the tobacco policy reminds him of when smoking was banned indoors.
“It’ll be a lot like indoor air — I was around when we implemented the indoor air policy and you just can’t imagine going back on that (now),” Golden said.
While the ban is still in the planning stages, Golden said the largest effort being made is getting word out about the policy.
“Really the biggest challenge is communicating what it means. Boundaries, enforcement, how does that all work,” he said.
University of Iowa
The University of Iowa implemented its ban in 2008.
According to the policy, “smoking is prohibited in any building, vehicle or outdoor area owned, leased or controlled by the university.”
After the first few years, Tom Moore, spokesman for Iowa, said the ban has been received “quite well.”
“(Initially) it was the result of a state law that went into effect,” Moore said. “Over the years I think I’ve seen understanding and compliance of the law be quite good … (and) for the most part, I think it’s been positively received.”
Iowa’s Smoke Free Air Act passed in 2008 and “prohibits smoking in almost all public places and enclosed areas within places of employment, as well as some outdoor areas.”
Moore added that the university is currently determining if e-cigarettes should be banned in addition to cigarettes.
“We’re sort of in an information-gathering mode,” he said. “At this point, there’s not a lot of research.”
Looking ahead at OSU’s ban
At Ohio State, the campus-wide ban was announced in 2013, and was set to take effect Aug. 1. In August, however, university officials said the ban would not be enforced until 2014. University officials have said the ban is to promote healthy living around OSU.
“It actually does make a difference, and we know in tobacco control no single thing that we do is a magic bullet,” Dr. Peter Shields, deputy director of the Wexner Medical Center James Comprehensive Cancer Center, said in an interview with The Lantern Jan. 16. “And there is data out there from some universities … where they went tobacco free, they tracked smoking over time and they saw that the rates among students went down and so it’s really a multi-pronged approach.”