Tobacco-growing state tops list of smoke-free campuses

Go figure. North Carolina, deep in the heart of tobacco-growing country, appears to have the highest number of “100 percent tobacco-free” college and university campuses in the nation.

Central Piedmont Community College is one of 31 North Carolina campuses that are considered 100 percent smoke free. (Photo courtesy DouG!)

A national list compiled by the American Lung Association and a smoke-free effort in Oregon shows North Carolina with 31 campuses considered “100 percent tobacco-free” and two more scheduled to convert in August. Most of the North Carolina campuses on the list are community and technical colleges, which typically are easier places to implement and enforce smoking bans than sprawling four-year institutions.

As of this week, the list included 249 campuses in the nation that are “prohibiting smoking and all forms of tobacco use everywhere on campus (e.g. no designated smoking areas).”

Health and wellness directors expect the 100 percent tobacco-free trend to pick up speed at public and private institutions across the country. St. Catherine University, a private Catholic women’s school based in St. Paul, Minn., will go completely tobacco-free in August. Its sister campus in Minneapolis, which is significantly smaller, has been tobacco-free since 2008. Altogether, Minnesota has 16 institutions on the national list, one of the highest counts in the nation.

Among the “toughest questions” St. Kate’s considered before adopting its new policy were the impact of student smokers opting for off-campus housing instead of dormitories and the safety of resident students if they wanted to smoke in the middle of the night, said Dr. Amy Kelly, a physician and director of health and wellness at St. Kate’s.

“In the end, the committee decided that if it’s going to be a tobacco-free campus, there’s not going to be an exception,” Kelly said. Like other tobacco-free campuses, St. Kate’s offers smoking cessation programs.

Minnesota State University Moorhead, which adopted its tobacco-free policy in 2008, is on the national list even though it exempts student theater productions and American Indian cultural ceremonies held on campus. But those exemptions are among the few permitted by Minnesota’s clean air laws. Moorhead doesn’t have “designated smoking areas,” so technically it’s “100 percent tobacco-free.”

One issue Minnesota State Moorhead didn’t anticipate is the reaction from off-campus neighbors, said Carol Grimm, director of health and wellness. The institution measures 5-by-14 city blocks.

“We’re a landlocked university so we have residents on three sides of us, and one of the things we struggled with was continuing that good relationship with the neighbors,” Grimm said. “There was a litter issue that came on top of that (smoking), obviously. We had to create a good environment for neighbors, too.”

The solution? The university placed 12 receptacles on the perimeter of the campus for tobacco debris.

Missing from the list is the state’s largest higher-education institution — University of Minnesota Twin Cities. Although the university just announced that researchers grew breathable lungs in a laboratory, it hasn’t adopted a restrictive tobacco-free policy yet.

— Casey Selix,

POSTED BY ON June 30, 2010