The pernicious march toward tobacco prohibition continues at American universities. Ohio Board of Regents Chairman James Tuschman said he will ask trustees at all of the state’s two- and four-year institutions to ban tobacco on campus (here). In neighboring West Virginia, the Board of Governors announced that it will impose a tobacco ban at West Virginia University in July 2013 (link).
It is distressing that institutions that ought to stand for tolerance and diversity are implementing not only indoor smoking bans (which have a solid scientific rationale) and outdoor smoking bans (which have virtually no scientific rationale), but universal bans of all tobacco products, including significantly less harmful smokeless tobacco.
WVU’s tobacco ban is in stark contrast to its alcohol policy (here) which allows alcoholic beverages to be served on campus within certain guidelines. University officials are banning smokeless tobacco, which carries a risk about equal to driving an automobile, while allowing alcohol, which is significantly more dangerous.
A comprehensive national review of alcohol use among college students (link) found that 42% (3.8 million) consumed 5 or more drinks on an occasion in the past month. Thirty-one percent (2.8 million) admitted to driving under the influence of alcohol in the past year. The data also show that over 500,000 college students are unintentionally injured per year because of alcohol; more than 600,000 are hit or assaulted by another drinking student; and over 1,700 die from alcohol-related motor vehicle accidents and other injuries.
Campus tobacco prohibition is illogical, oppressive and difficult to enforce. Modern smokeless tobacco products are spit-free and invisible in use. WVU anti-tobacco extremists warn that “Consistent communication about the policy will be essential and will require commitment from all levels of leadership from President Clements, deans and directors, supervisors to resident assistants in the dorms. University Police officers should be called upon to help inform violators of the new policy” (here).
Will campus police employ tobacco-sniffing dogs at security checkpoints? Will faculty and staff conduct random mouth checks before university lectures?
There is no rational basis for colleges and universities to prohibit the use of smokeless tobacco products. Comprehensive campus bans on tobacco are impractical, inappropriate and a distraction from truly important health risks facing our nation’s college students.