The University of South Carolina's Columbia campus will go tobacco-free Jan. 1, school president Harris Pastides announced last week, and its Beaufort branch might follow suit.
The main campus will join at least 10 other schools in South Carolina -- the nation's fifth-largest tobacco-growing state -- that already ban smoking or all tobacco products, including chewing tobacco. Another six state colleges, including Clemson, Benedict College and the University of South Carolina Beaufort, are considering bans.
USCB has received a community-engagement grant through the Healthy South Carolina Initiative, which is to be used to encourage healthy lifestyles. A smoking ban could be part of that, according to Lindsey Logue, who is coordinating a task force exploring the possibility.
The task force is to make recommendations about a tobacco-free campus policy in a report to the school's chancellor by 2014, Logue said. It's work will include gauging support among faculty, staff and students for a tobacco-free campus. Its primary concerns are the health risks of smoking and second-hand smoke.
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USCB allows smoking in designated, posted places that are at least 25 feet away from buildings. Banned areas include all buildings and living spaces, courtyards where air circulation is be limited, bus stops and outdoor areas with seating.
Violators are subject to disciplinary action and may have to pay for repairs or cleaning made necessary by their tobacco use.
Since 2006, USC's main campus has banned tobacco use within 25 feet of buildings and outdoor seating areas, including patios.
A campus-wide ban means fans tailgating at the former State Farmer's Market site or in school-owned parking lots, around basketball's Colonial Life Arena and baseball's Carolina Stadium cannot light up cigarettes or chew tobacco.
Despite word around campus to the contrary, the ban will be enforced, Pastides said at a USC Board of Trustees meeting Aug. 9.
However, Pastides said he prefers university officers and the school's nearly 40,000 faculty, employees and students offer reminders of the ban and ask tobacco users to attend stop-smoking programs to avoid disciplining or ticketing violators.
"It will be imperfectly enforced," he said. "This isn't about how many people we catch. It's about how many behaviors we could change. ... This will be enforced in a gentle way."
Pastides said surveys found 87 percent of students and 94 percent faculty and staff don't smoke.
The school will hold a tobacco-free summit in October and install signs and remove ashtrays in December.
Nearly 1,200 colleges nationwide have gone tobacco or smoke free, according to the American Nonsmokers' Rights Foundation.
Follow reporter Erin Moody at twitter.com/IPBG_Erin.
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S.C. college campuses that have smoking or tobacco bans, or are considering them:
Charleston Southern University
Columbia International University
Francis Marion University
Medical University of South Carolina
North Greenville University
University of South Carolina (Jan. 1)
College of Charleston
University of South Carolina Beaufort