Cal State Long Beach's Associated Students Inc. Senate this month approved a referendum for the March ballot asking students to vote on whether to change the university's policy to prohibit all smoking on campus. President F. King Alexander must give final approval for any changes to the policy, but a student vote in favor of banning smoking would send a strong message to the university.
The possible changes at Cal State Long Beach reflect a nationwide trend of smoking bans on college campuses.
As of October, at least 826 colleges in the nation had adopted smoke-free campus policies that eliminate smoking in indoor and outdoor areas, according to the nonprofit group Americans for Nonsmokers' Rights. The number has nearly doubled from 420 in 2010.
The trend is also taking hold across California.
Earlier this year, Cal State Fullerton approved a resolution for a smoke-free campus, making Fullerton the first Cal State University campus to ban smoking entirely. The policy, which goes into effect in August, prohibits smoking throughout the campus, including in parking lots and in university-owned vehicles.
Officials said the new policy was supported by students and faculty.
The University of California system will ban smoking and chewing tobacco on all of its 10 campuses starting in 2014. UCLA decided to start the trend early and will become tobacco-free in April.
Officials said the move is intended to promote health on campus and educate smokers on the dangers of lighting up.
"Smoking is a leading cause of preventable and premature death," Grace Crickette, UC's chief risk officer, said in a statement. "Making all our campuses smoke-free provides a healthy environment for our students, faculty, staff, patients and visitors. It's the right thing to do."
Smoking remains the leading cause of death in the United States, accounting for 443,000 deaths each year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. An estimated 45.3 million people, or 19 percent of people 18 and older, smoke cigarettes, and more than 20 percent of college-age Americans, ages 18 to 24, light up.
College students are a popular target for tobacco companies because most smokers start before the age of 25, according to statistics.
While the proposed ban at Cal State Long Beach is supported by some students, others say the move goes too far.
Kevin Nally, a 22-year-old political science major, said last week that the tobacco-free policy could force some smokers to venture off campus into alleyways or parking lots to light up, which could pose a safety concern. Nally, a smoker who's been trying to quit, said the ban won't likely help his struggles.
"It's not something that's illegal, so to boil it down to this level just seems inappropriate," he said.
Others, however, said they're tired of walking through wafts of smoke on campus.
"There's a designated smoking section right in front of the library, so you have to walk through smoke whenever you go to the library. It's pretty gross," said John Wog, a 34-year-old graduate student. "I would definitely support the ban."
For John Murrin, a 26-year-old engineering major, smoking is a matter of free choice. Murrin, a Marine Corps veteran who served two tours of duty in Iraq, said the cigarettes help with the stress of finals.
Murrin said he can blow through a pack and a half a day during finals week.
"I used to sleep next to an asbestos wall in Iraq, so I think that will probably kill me before the cigarettes do," he said with a chuckle. "And besides, I fought for our freedom, so I think I should at least have the freedom to smoke."
Students are set to vote on the issue at the end of March.
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