College campuses are notoriously safe zones for freedom of expression, but one of those expressions is becoming increasingly prohibited: smoking.
Public smoking bans have been trickling across the country for years now, including one initiated in NYC this past May. However, colleges have been making plans for smoke-free campuses for years and especially now, as the smoking rate is 30 percent among college students, according to the American Nonsmokers Rights Foundation.
The ANR reports 530 college campuses are now 100 percent smoke-free. Many more schools, like the University of Oklahoma's Norman campus, will be initiating a campus-wide smoking ban this coming year.
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“It is time for us to take this action,” said OU President David Boren during his State of the University address this week.
That sentiment is rapidly spreading among the higher education community, as students have been a prime target for the tobacco industry for years.
"One need only look at promotions held in bars across campuses all over the country to realize that 18-24 year olds are important to the tobacco industry," according to the ANR.
But is a campus-wide smoking ban fair to student smokers? John Nothdurft, director of government relations for the Heartland Institute, said those bans could become a legal dilemma.
"Historically, there have been designated areas for smokers," said Nothdurft. "Now colleges are trying to even get rid of those and that could be a First Amendment issue."
He also said forcing students to leave campus in order to light up could become a safety problem for schools that are located in dangerous areas. However, Nothdurft says that, similar to alcohol bans, smoking bans cannot truly be enforced on campuses. He views the bans as a marketing technique by schools to convince parents that students will be safer and healthier on campus.
"It's not really that colleges truly believe they are going to enforce it with an iron fist," he said. "What they are trying to do is say, 'We are smoke-free' so they can kind of put in on their mailings to parents to let them know they will take care of their kid. It's more of a selling point."
What do you think? Has your campus gone smoke-free? Do you want it to be?