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Dec. 5, 2013 Volume 35, No. 15

Missouri campus went smoke-free last summer. So how’s it working out?

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Studies show that most lifetime smokers take up the habit before they are age 25. Administrators hope that banning smoking will mean that more young people never take up the habit. Illustration courtesy of Getty Images.

Since the campus went smoke-free July 1, 2013, campus smokers have mostly followed the policy, administrators say. There is also less cigarette waste littering the campus. The former smoking areas have returned to being indistinguishable from smoke-free areas. 

Some smokers have opted to take their cigarette breaks on the city sidewalk adjacent to campus. And there doesn’t appear to be any buildup of butts in areas along the campus perimeter.

Tiffany Bowman, tobacco cessation coordinator for MU’s Wellness Resource Center, said that when she reminds campus smokers of the ban, “they quickly comply and [typically say they] were not aware of the policy.”

Banned on campus are cigarettes, cigars, pipes, hookahs, water pipes and e-cigarettes, which don’t emit smoke but do create confusion because they resemble cigarettes. 

Smoke-Free Mizzou has been long in the making. For years smoking was not allowed in MU buildings, but it wasn’t until 2009 that smoking was banned outdoors within 20 feet of building entrances. With the implementation in July 2011 of phase one of Smoke-Free Mizzou, outdoor smoking was confined to 15 designated areas and the top floor of parking structures. 

The campuswide smoke-free policy joined the 2006 tobacco-free implementation on MU Health Care property. (“Tobacco-free” also bans chewing tobacco.)

Smoking Dangers

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, approximately 200,000 people in the United States are diagnosed each year with lung cancer, and more than 150,000 die from the disease each year.

“Smoking is the No. 1 cause of lung cancer in the U.S.,” said Vamsi Guntur, a pulmonologist at University Hospital. “But lung cancer is not just limited to those who smoke.”

Guntur points out that another major cause of lung cancer is exposure to secondhand smoke. Nonsmokers exposed to secondhand smoke are approximately 20 percent more likely to develop lung cancer than nonsmokers who are not exposed to secondhand smoke.

 “Even if a person doesn’t smoke but lives with a smoker or works in an environment where cigarette smoke is prevalent, such as a casino, there is a higher risk for that person to develop lung cancer,” Guntur said.

The surgeon general has released several reports, most recently in 2010, finding that inhaled secondhand smoke places nonsmokers at risk for heart disease, stroke, various cancers and respiratory ailments.

Smoking Cessation Programs

When MU went smoke-free last summer, it joined more than 1,100 other smoke-free colleges and universities in the United States. “I feel like the smoke-free policy has contributed to an overall impression of well-being on the campus,” Bowman said. “I am happy to see Mizzou taking this healthy step forward.”

Bowman, however, said that not enough students and employees who are smokers have taken advantage of MU’s cessation programs. “We really have not seen an increase” in smokers signing up for the programs since the ban began, Bowman said. “Our demand for the cessation services has remained about the same.”

MU offers smoking cessation programs for students and employees. Faculty and staff can sign up for programs administered by the UM System Healthy for Life wellness program. MyChoice Health Care members are eligible for free phone counseling sessions, web access and email support, and can receive gum, patches or lozenges to curb nicotine craving. Smoking cessation medications are covered by the UM Prescription Drug Plan with a doctor’s prescription. 

The Wellness Resource Center offers students free nicotine replacement therapy patches, counseling, assistance in developing a personalized quit plan and peer support. For more information, including cessation programs and a map of campus boundaries, visit

Ellis Fischel Cancer Center also offers help to smokers wanting to quit. Call Ellis at 884-1512.