The University of California will ban smoking and chewing tobacco on all 10 campuses within two years, President Mark Yudof told campus chancellors this week.
Nearly 600 other campuses nationwide have banned smoking, and many California universities either limit smokers to isolated parts of campus or keep them from lighting up at all.
The UC ban was a long time coming, said Colleen Stevens, chief of the tobacco-control branch of the California Department of Public Health.
"People have been actively working on this for 10 years," she said. "The UC system has been very vocal about protecting people from secondhand smoke."
The university likely would have banned smoking earlier, but smokers vehemently argued against it, said Trish Ratto, a health educator and manager of UC Berkeley's Health Matters Wellness Program.
The university will implement the ban in stages to help smokers quit gradually rather go cold turkey.
By 2014, however, nobody -- students, professors, custodians or conference attendees -- will be allowed to smoke or chew tobacco on campus.
"We want to give them time," Ratto said. "There's a lot of work ahead to make it happen."
California's smoking rate -- just less than 12 percent of the adult population smokes -- is lower than every state's but Utah's. About 8 percent of UC students and 10 percent of employees smoke, both far lower than national averages.
The upcoming ban also will prohibit
It remains to be seen how campuses will handle illicit puffers and chewers. A bill signed by Gov. Jerry Brown in the fall gave colleges and universities the right to fine smokers, but UC appears inclined toward a more forgiving strategy.
"The organizations that seem to be the most successful are the ones that, instead of handing them a ticket, hand them a card with information on it," said Grace Crickette, chief risk officer for the UC system.
Each campus will be able to handle smokers in its own way, but the educational approach "would be the hope," she said.
Matt Krupnick covers higher education for the Bay Area News Group. Contact him at 510-208-6488. Follow him at Twitter.com/MattKrupnick.