Crookston campus goes smoke-free

Officials hope the campuswide ban on all tobacco products will lead to students kicking the habit.

by Anna Ewart

Next year, smokers at the University of Minnesota’s Crookston campus may want to consider dropping the habit.

Starting Jan. 1, the use and sale of tobacco will be banned on all Crookston campus properties, including outdoors. The Duluth campus began enforcing a similar policy last September.

The Twin Cities campus has a policy prohibiting smoking within 25 feet of all building entrances. 

Rand Rasmussen, director of the Academic Assistance Center and Student Support Services at Crookston, participated in the campus-wide discussion leading up to the policy. He said he’s pleased with the decision, as he’s been in favor of a ban for a long time.

“It’s pretty obvious that the entire country eventually will be going this way,” he said. “I’m glad that we got on the front end of that.”

According to the policy, its purpose is “to reduce harm from second-hand smoke, provide an environment that encourages individuals to be tobacco-free and establish a campus culture of wellness and promote a tobacco-free society.”

Before finalizing the ban, administrators looked at a 2007 Boynton Health Service survey that measured tobacco use at 14 Minnesota colleges and universities.

Crookston campus spokeswoman Krista Lemos said the study showed the campus has a slightly higher-than-average number of student smokers and a significantly higher number of students using smokeless tobacco.

She said ashtrays will be moved off campus, but enforcement will rely on student cooperation.

“We know it will be a lifestyle change,” Lemos said.

The Twin Cities branch of the University is beginning to look at the possibility of a smoking ban too, Vice Provost for Student Affairs Jerry Rinehart said.

However, he said discussion of a ban would have to consider enforcement, civil rights and the safety of students who go off campus to smoke.

“I don’t think there’s any preordained conclusion about whether or not the University should have a ban,” Rinehart said.

Bans like this are essentially meant to make tobacco use unacceptable, Dr. Stephen Hecht, Wallin professor of cancer prevention at the Masonic Cancer Center, said.

“It’s a common sense thing,” he said. “It’s all part of a move to discourage smoking.”

Second-hand smoke is an accepted cause of lung cancer, but Hecht said it’s less dangerous than smoking, and there’s even less risk if it’s outside because smoke dissipates in the air.

“The effects of cigarette smoke are completely dependent on dose,” he said.

Chewing tobacco, which the Crookston ban includes, causes different problems, but isn’t as dangerous as smoking, he said.

MSA member Justin Carlson said that although he’d support a ban, he thinks it’d be logistically difficult to enforce on the much-larger Twin Cities campus. MSA earlier this year debated supporting a smoking ban.

There are about 1,100 Crookston students, making it the smallest of the University’s major branches. It houses nearly 500 students on campus.

At the Twin Cities campus, there are more than 28,700 students, about 6,000 of them living in University housing.

“Just because we’re a big campus, I don’t think that excludes us from being able to implement a policy similar to that,” Carlson said. “I think we’d just have to approach it differently.”