BATON ROUGE, LA — When students return to LSU this fall, they will notice something missing: smokers.
A new no-smoking policy takes effect Friday. Tobacco and nicotine products are not allowed on campus, including fraternity and sorority houses. LSU students say they understand the policy, but are not entirely in favor of it.
"I agree that they should be looking out for people's health, because people's health is important," said Caitlin Charles, a rising sophomore who does not smoke. "If you're not healthy, you can't go to school."
Approximately 30 percent of LSU students smoke. But there is a lot of concern about the new restrictions.
"I thought it was a little weird, because we're all adults," Charles stated. "I mean, if you don't like someone, like, if they have a particular smoking area, then that's fine, but I don't think it's quite fair to ban all smoking."
"At the end of the day, I think it is my body. If I want to smoke cigarettes, I can smoke cigarettes," added Lowell Potter, a rising junior who does smoke. "It's not your place to tell me, just because it's bad for me, that I can't do it. I mean, people drink all the time. Drinking isn't outlawed, even though everyone knows it's bad for you."
In 2013, the Louisiana state legislature passed a law forcing public universities to create smoke-free or tobacco-free policies. Potter said that not only does he deserve more personal liberty, but smokers did not cause much trouble for the rest of the LSU community.
"Also, most of the smoking on campus is in the walking areas or right here in the quad, where, for the most part, there's a ton of space, out in the open in the air," he mentioned.
LSU previously established a rule that forced smokers at least 25 feet away from the entrance to all buildings. The new policy restricts the use of products such as cigarettes, cigars, hookahs, chewing tobacco, and electronic cigarettes.
Charles said she thought the policy was excessive.
"Especially e-cigs, because they're just vapor," she stated. "It doesn't really bother most people."
Potter said he did not initially see why there was any need for such a change, but he began to see the other side of the argument after some time.
"Part of the reason that it makes sense to me is because I know about the initiatives in the government, that they're trying to cut smoking out," he noted. "So I can understand the university wanting to kind of spearhead that, just to help out as much as they can."
Nearly half a million people die from use of tobacco or nicotine products every year. Potter said he uses cigarettes to relieve stress, especially during exam periods. He does not believe a smoking restriction will help or hurt LSU in is effort to recruit students, and feels the policy will not impact smokers, either.
"It'll probably decrease the amount of smoking I do in an average day, just because campus is where I spend my time," he noted. "But as far as, that's not going to be a reason for me to quit smoking."
The policy should save LSU money. It spends $36,000 a year cleaning ashtrays and loose cigarette butts around campus.
Tobacco will be permitted for artistic performances and academic projects, with prior approval.
Smokers will not be punished for a first offense. Multiple violations of the policy could lead to disciplinary action.