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Smoking to be Banned on Some US College Campuses, Public Housing


FILE -- A University of Washington student smokes at a designated smoking location on the campus in Seattle.

New efforts are underway to extinguish cigarette smoking on American college campuses and in public housing.

Twenty colleges in the United States recently received grants to help make their campuses tobacco free.

And in November, U.S. Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julian Castro announced that smoking will become illegal at all public housing over the next 18 months. The federal housing department has over one million homes.

“Every child deserves to grow up in a safe, healthy home free from harmful second-hand cigarette smoke,” Castro said.

The move to ban smoking at public housing units and college campuses follows approval of state laws banning smoking at most workplaces.

The Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids reports that 27 American states ban smoking in all indoor workplaces, including restaurants. California became the first state to ban smoking at most workplaces in 1995.

Thirty-two countries had banned smoking at most workplaces as of 2012, the Tobacco Atlas reports.

David Wang, 19, smokes outside during a break from classes at Seattle Central College in Seattle, Washington, Jan. 7, 2016.
David Wang, 19, smokes outside during a break from classes at Seattle Central College in Seattle, Washington, Jan. 7, 2016.

Those supporting smoke-free workplaces, public housing and college campuses give one major reason: the negative health effects of smoking.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says cigarette smoking is the leading cause of preventable deaths in the United States. Smoking accounts for 480,000 deaths every year.

Unfair rules?

A New York City smokers’ rights group opposes the new ban on smoking at public housing units.

Audrey Silk, founder of Citizens Lobbying Against Smoker Harassment, wrote President-elect Donald Trump, asking him to stop the ban after he becomes president on January 20.

Silk says officials are going too far in trying to stop people from using a legal product.

She told Trump the new federal housing rule would force old or sick people to walk outside their homes to smoke, even when the weather is bad.

Luis Torres smokes a cigarette outside the New York City Housing Authority's Chelsea-Elliot Houses where he lives, Nov. 12, 2015, in New York.
Luis Torres smokes a cigarette outside the New York City Housing Authority's Chelsea-Elliot Houses where he lives, Nov. 12, 2015, in New York.

“At stake is the right of U.S. citizens to be left alone to engage in a legal activity in the privacy of one’s own home,” Silk said.

Public health issue

But supporters of smoking bans and smoke-free areas say the bad effects of second-hand smoke make it a public health issue. Some also say that college campuses are a good place to limit or ban smoking.

Gary Reedy, chief executive officer of the American Cancer Society, which recently announced anti-smoking grants to 20 U.S. colleges, says it is important to stop college students from smoking, “to be successful in creating a tobacco-free generation.”

The CDC estimates that 13 percent of adults between the ages of 18 and 24 smoke cigarettes. Reedy said that reducing the number of college students who smoke can lead to reduced smoking rates among older adults.

His reasoning? Once a person starts smoking, it is hard to stop, Reedy says.

The CVS Health Foundation is providing $3.6 million for the anti-smoking grants. The foundation was started by the American drug store company CVS.

CVS stopped selling cigarettes in 2014.

The American Cancer Society says about one third of America’s 4,700 college campuses are already smoke-free.

Thomas Gibson is vice president for student affairs at Bowling Green State University in Ohio, one of the grant winners. He says Bowling Green wants to help urge students to not start smoking.

“While approximately 90 percent of smokers start by age 18, 99 percent start by age 26," said Gibson.

For those students who already smoke, the school wants to help them stop, he said.

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