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Posted at 2:35 PM ET, 01/17/2011

Are college campus smoking bans draconian?

By Valerie Strauss

Towson University, Maryland’s second-largest public university, has banned smoking anywhere on campus, joining more than 460 other colleges and universities in the United States that have 100 percent smoke-free campus policies.

That leaves about 6,100 colleges and universities that still allow smoking in some places on campus (based on an Education Department statistics that there were 6,551 postsecondary institutions in the country in 2008).

The American NonSmokers Rights Foundation maintains a list of schools with no-smoke policies, here. It includes some big schools, including the University of Texas at Austin.

My colleague Jenna Johnson reported that Towson has become one of the first schools in the greater Washington region to ban smoking, which means that smokers are consigned to light up off campus. Between classes, she wrote, “smokers rush to the state- or county-owned roads edging the Baltimore County campus. Not stepping off school property before lighting up can mean a $75 fine.”

It’s hard, at least for a non-smoker, especially one who finds it difficult to breathe in a smoke-filled area, not to be sympathetic with the blanket no-smoking rule. Smoking is obviously lousy for smokers, lousy for non-smokers who are forced to inhale it, and bad in general for the public health system.

Towson officials weren’t trying to get people to quit smoking, Johnson reported, but rather were trying to reduce cigarette litter and make the air healthier for nonsmokers. Sounds fair.

But smoking is legal for college-age students. Would it be equally fair to allow smokers a few places on campuses to light up, with the proviso that they maintain the cleanliness of the area so that non-smoking university staff don’t have to clean up? And that kids who don't smoke aren't forced to live with someone who does (clothes can carry cigarette odor long after the cigarette is out).

What’s the right answer?

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By Valerie Strauss  | January 17, 2011; 2:35 PM ET
Categories:  College Life  | Tags:  bans on smoking, nonsmokers rights, smoking, smoking at school, smoking bans, smoking on campus, smoking rights  
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In the state of Iowa, colleges and universities were swept under the state's smoking ban. The ban includes educational institutions. So it is now illegal to smoke on college campuses in Iowa, regardless of original campus policy.

Posted by: ssmith1113 | January 17, 2011 3:12 PM | Report abuse

In the state of Iowa, colleges and universities were swept under the state's smoking ban. The ban includes educational institutions. So it is now illegal to smoke on college campuses in Iowa, regardless of original campus policy.

Posted by: ssmith1113 | January 17, 2011 3:13 PM | Report abuse

Interesting article today, but as usual the author did not include reporting from the area community colleges. There is a list of many universities and their policies, but where are NOVA and Montgomery College? NOVA struggles a lot with this issue. There are rules about smoking away from doorways but people break the rules. There is litter everywhere. I would love a total ban of smoking. Colleges should promote good health and smart thinking. It is unbelievable that young people still start smoking, with all that we know about its ill effects. Colleges would be doing so much good to help students quit or to prevent them from ever starting.

Posted by: drl97 | January 17, 2011 5:10 PM | Report abuse

What is amazing, is the tobacco industry is able to legally exist at all (save a small lot for research purposes). Benjamin Rush knew in the 1700's that smoking harmed health. Now, researchers have determined that smoking harms health (DNA) within minutes:

The ailments related to tobacco are seemingly endless.

Posted by: shadwell1 | January 17, 2011 5:48 PM | Report abuse

Most businesses and public places in Florida are non-smoking facilities. I personally quit 15 years back. I am convinced my kids smoked because of their father and mother (the wife lapses at times but for the most part she stopped.)

Interestingly enough, one of the commitments I made to myself to stop was to stop carrying cigarettes. I forced myself to walk somewhere just to get a cigarette. Over a period of time I weened myself from cigarettes to the point of not feeling the urge. At that point I quit.

Will it work for everyone? Not sure, but this I know...if you carry them you will smoke.

Posted by: jbeeler | January 17, 2011 6:50 PM | Report abuse

Recently I decided to try to complete a degree. This would have required a lot of remedial work... almost 5 years worth, just to meet the math and language requirements to transfer to a 4-year college.

I was finally reaching the level of resolve necessary to undertake such a long-term and arduous task beginning at age 50.

I was just getting ready to walk out of the door to enroll (again) in Montgomery College. But I paused to check the website of the Washington Post... and discovered that Montgomery College had just banned smoking anywhere on campus.

Thanks guys. You're all I can afford and you want to kick me in the crotch, so to speak. I would rather die an uneducated bum -- as much as I want that degree -- rather than pay a cent to any educational institution that demands that I walk away from a lifetime habit that is totally legal, if I want to set foot on the grounds of the hallowed halls of academia.

Whatever happened to Freedom In Academia?

First they came for the smokers' jobs. Then they came for the smokers' insurance. Then they came for the smokers' educational opportunities. And by the time they started coming for the people who drive fast cars, the people who like to play contact sports, the people who risk DEATH from pricking their fingers with a sewing needle, there was nobody left to stand against them.

Sorry, folks. I'll die an uneducated bum... but one who stood up for freedom, if only be refusing to attend lecture at a freedom-hating commie college that dares to declare that they can prohibit lifestyle choices in adults.

Posted by: thardman | January 17, 2011 9:24 PM | Report abuse

The cost of cleaning up the trash created by smokers is justification enough to ban the filthy habit. With budgets so tight, it makes perfect sense to me. Over many years of life, I have found smokers to not be particularly concerned with issues of litter, particularly about where they toss their cigarette butts.

Posted by: buckbuck11 | January 17, 2011 9:49 PM | Report abuse

How is a smoking ban any different than an alcohol ban? And yet I don't see anyone having a hissy fit like thardman is having about a smoking abn over a dry campus.

Posted by: RedBirdie | January 17, 2011 10:15 PM | Report abuse

As long as smoking is legal in the United States, it should be accomodated.

I notice they haven't banned drinking, and if you think smoking is harmful, check out the damage from college drinking sometimes. And what about bullying?

Hypocrites who are trying to outlaw the things they don't like very selectively.

As soon as we get over one prejudice in this country, we find something else to discriminate over.

Posted by: observator1000 | January 17, 2011 10:22 PM | Report abuse

Well, given the apparently exorbitant costs of cleaning up a few cigarette butts from the ground have now been excised, presumably tuition and fees at Towson should now drop dramatically.

If said costs don't fall, as a public facility that elects to disenfranchise more than 20% of the population on the most dubious of "science" vis the "harm" wrought by smoking outdoors, Towson should cut its fees by slashing the jobs of whatever administration flunkies thought this up.

Interestingly, Montgomery College got a "grant" from some kind of Robert Wood Johnson nanny agency to harass its current and future students like the one above. I wonder how alumni like being told they aren't human anymore when it comes time to donate to the campus.

/But the real winner, of course, is online universities, where one needn't bother with the salaries of such nannies.

Posted by: twarrior | January 17, 2011 11:48 PM | Report abuse

In the 60's, we demonstrated for freedom of all kinds, racial, sexual, drugs, the draft, etc. We took over the college campuses and later became professors and administrators. Now we use the power that we have gained to create campus speech codes and things like outdoor smoking bans. Anyone else see the irony here?

I'm amazed at the number of people who cheer every further limitation of our freedoms without giving it a second thought.

Posted by: concernedcitizen3 | January 18, 2011 12:44 AM | Report abuse

Smokers always act like it's the apocalypse when smoking gets banned wherever. They always adjust.

To the person who said he'd rather die uneducated than go to a college where smoking is banned: you need to get a handle on your priorities. And I'm not sure why you think the public needs to accommodate your addiction. You made a choice. Everyone knows smoking is stupid but you picked up cigarettes anyway. And now you're expecting the public to accommodate the risk you consciously took?

Posted by: anastasia2 | January 18, 2011 4:09 AM | Report abuse

I approve of the ban. Smoking is bad all the way around and and just a nasty habit. They stink, their clothes stink, and anything else they rub on stinks. Even driving behind them is a problem. It's just the nature of tobacco. Non-smokers and people with asthma and other problems shouldn't have to suffer because of the addictions of a minority group.

Posted by: lidiworks1 | January 18, 2011 6:17 AM | Report abuse

If cigarettes or the exposure to their smoke is in fact that dangerous, then ban their sales! According to the school restrictions, there is no safe level of exposure so what the heck are they doing on the market? When I was a kid in the 50's and 60's, almost everyone smoked, almost everywhere. In cars, busses, trains, airplanes, theaters, houses, everywhere! If the smoke is so toxic, I, and everyone else my age should already be dead! Presents bans are designed only to appease non smokers and have nothing to do with "health" per se.

Posted by: DrFish | January 18, 2011 9:11 AM | Report abuse

We know where history will land on smoking. It will be a discarded habit like the many others humanity has tried and thrown away. The only reason why they still make and sell cigarettes in the US is because of the huge tax windfalls. Once the taxes are cranked up universally to NY levels the practice will end and then likely be outlawed in short order.

Posted by: lboeckl | January 18, 2011 9:23 AM | Report abuse

It sickens me that so many intolerant non-smokers believe that smoking should be banned everywhere. Obviously someone smoking away from a building isn't going to cause problems for anyone. This is known as "tyranny of the majority." If we can do that, then we can vote to re-introduce slavery. I wish the Supreme Court would address this issue and restore the rights of that minority which chooses to smoke.

...a former smoker

Posted by: scoogy | January 18, 2011 9:29 AM | Report abuse

With the campus ban the concentration of butt litter and secondhand smoke will increase on those adjacent streets and sidewalks. Best to ban smoking in all public places of a given municipality immediately under an emergency ordinance. Then let the tobacco producers, retailers and users come back with a plan to create and fund public smoking areas - subject to annual renewal. The external costs of smoking should not be borne by the lungs and taxpayer funds of non smokers.

Posted by: globespinner | January 18, 2011 9:34 AM | Report abuse

There are many campuses that are also "dry campuses." That means you have to set foot off of campus in order to drink. Drinking is legal for about a quarter of the school's population - maybe even a third. Yet they ban that. And there is no serious side effects other than listening to your roomate puke up last nights enjoyment the next day. Second, and now we have third hand smoke cause all sorts of problems. Drinking becomes a problem when it is done in excess and when someone drives later.

Posted by: kjaj | January 18, 2011 9:54 AM | Report abuse

There are many campuses that are also "dry campuses." That means you have to set foot off of campus in order to drink. Drinking is legal for about a quarter of the school's population - maybe even a third. Yet they ban that. And there is no serious side effects other than listening to your roomate puke up last nights enjoyment the next day. Second, and now we have third hand smoke cause all sorts of problems. Drinking becomes a problem when it is done in excess and when someone drives later. More of a reason to keep it on campus.

Posted by: kjaj | January 18, 2011 9:55 AM | Report abuse

The problem I see with smoking is that it doesn't only affect the smoker. Non-smokers have the right NOT to inhale disease-causing secondhand smoke. I completely support the ban on college campuses as well as its enforcement, and wish it had been in place when I was in college.

What I would like to see on these campuses that enact this ban is free smoking cessation support (education, counseling, assistive gums or patches, medicines, etc.) available to all students, faculty, and staff.

Posted by: dcn8v | January 18, 2011 10:03 AM | Report abuse

This is nothing more nor less than a naked power grab by busybodies who insist that they alone know what's best for everyone else. Does "Carrie Nation" the "Temperance Biddy" ring a bell?

Posted by: thardman | January 18, 2011 10:05 AM | Report abuse

Of all tyrannies, a tyranny sincerely exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It would be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron's cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated; but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end for they do so with the approval of their own conscience.
C.S. Lewis

Posted by: dmm1 | January 18, 2011 11:16 AM | Report abuse

Your only argument is that these students are of age. So are high school juniors & seniors. Should we allow them to smoke on campus too? Tobacco is a known cancer agent. I have no interest in breathing someone elses bad habits in just because they're adults.

Posted by: dogaround | January 18, 2011 11:16 AM | Report abuse

combustion by-products are carcinogens.

I propose we ban all cars, because, after all, who can STAND the idea that some inconsiderate chemical reaction is coming over to kill me.

just as lame an argument as the one tha bans cigarettes.

What's next ? outlaw fire?


I smoke wherever I want.

Posted by: pgibson1 | January 18, 2011 11:54 AM | Report abuse

Ban smoking all over !

It is unhealthy for the smoker, for the non-smoker if she-he has to inhale second hand smoke.

Making it inconvenient and socially unacceptable to smoke will lower our health care costs.

Posted by: observer31 | January 18, 2011 11:59 AM | Report abuse

Someone asked about Montgomery College. MC went smoke-free over a year ago. There was a lot of concern about what would happen as a result, but in the end, the smokers found some convenient places off campus to smoke. The college offered assistance to those who wanted to quit. I'm sure some took advantage of it. I think there was a brief problem with a neighborhood adjacent to one of the campuses, but it was solved.

This is 2011. Smoking is on its way out.

Posted by: amstphd | January 18, 2011 12:08 PM | Report abuse

The anti-smokers are guilty of flagrant scientific fraud for ignoring more than 50 studies, which show that human papillomaviruses cause at least a quarter of non-small cell lung cancers. Smokers and passive smokers are more likely to have been exposed to this virus, for socioeconomic reasons. And the anti-smokers' studies are all based on nothing but lifestyle questionnaires, so they're cynically DESIGNED to blame tobacco for all those extra lung cancers that are really caused by HPV. And those criminals commit the same type of fraud with every disease they blame on tobacco.

For the government to commit fraud to deprive us of our liberties is automatically a violation of our Constitutional rights to the equal protection of the laws, just as much as if the government purposely threw innocent people in prison. And for the government to spread lies about phony smoking dangers is terrorism, no different from calling in phony bomb threats.

This garbage has nothing to do with health. It's a war of cultural genocide by fanatical cultists to ram a compulsory state religion, foundied on Nazi pseudo-science, down everyone's throats.

Posted by: CarolT1 | January 18, 2011 1:00 PM | Report abuse

"I would rather die an uneducated bum -- as much as I want that degree -- rather than pay a cent to any educational institution that demands that I walk away from a lifetime habit that is totally legal, if I want to set foot on the grounds of the hallowed halls of academia."

That's the kind of wise decision-making I've come to expect from smokers.

Posted by: mw09 | January 18, 2011 1:00 PM | Report abuse

Smokers are literally drug addicts. There are several thousand toxic chemicals in tobacco smoke, over one thousand of which are carcinogenic. If one were to go around spewing the same chemicals into the air with a delivery system other than cigar, cigarette, or pipe, he could be prosecuted on charges of terrorism with a chemical weapons. But alas, big business tobacco companies with their Republican cronies in congress allow more young people to become addicts every day. They only care about money to be made today, not about the ethics nor the health care cost tobacco incurrs. Both are hypocrites. Smoking bans make smoking more difficult and create a stigma, both of which are good things. It takes away the opportunity to smoke, it protects bystanders, it makes it easier for addicts to quit.

Posted by: tharriso | January 18, 2011 1:24 PM | Report abuse

Colleges are a business. They should come under smoking restrictions the same as restaurants and other businesses catering to the public.

When my brother was attending a session to learn about the chemotherapy he would receive for cancer, participants were told they would be unable to smoke until the round of treatments were concluded. One of the participants said, "Forget it, then," and walked out, literally choosing smoking over living.

Posted by: sideswiththekids | January 18, 2011 2:52 PM | Report abuse

Why don't they allow "smokers only" restaurants and/or other places? Because smokers are fun-loving, socially agreeable people... Non-smokers want them around to entertain them while dictating their social behavior. Fanatics are boring.

Posted by: HaveItYourWay | January 18, 2011 3:59 PM | Report abuse

We protested the fascist pig governement of "Amerika" telling everybody what to do.

Then the revolution came, and we took over. Now 40 years later, meet the new boss, same as the old boss.

--faye kane, homeless idiot-savant
More of my smartmouth at

Posted by: Knee_Cheese_Zarathustra | January 18, 2011 6:06 PM | Report abuse

I am so glad smoking has been banned on campuses in Iowa. It was quite unpleasant to walk past a group smoking and have to smell it. I smoked for many years, but have not smoked for over 30. Quit cold turkey! Never wanted another cigarette. I now know how offensive it was to others.

Posted by: rmarinko | January 18, 2011 8:57 PM | Report abuse

If thardman won't quit smoking long enough to attend classes, the classes wouldn't do him much good. He doesn't say what field he wanted to study, but I don't think many businesses allow employees to smoke while working, many don't allow smoking on the premises, and some don't even want to hire smokers. So the smoking ban on campus did thardman a favor by keeping him from wasting his money preparing for a job he wouldn't be able to take because of his smoking.

Posted by: sideswiththekids | January 19, 2011 8:46 AM | Report abuse

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