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University of Minnesota campuses go tobacco-free on July 1

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Four University of Minnesota campuses will become smoke- and tobacco-free this summer.

The new policy, which will take effect July 1, bans smoking tobacco or e-cigarettes as well as chewing tobacco on university campuses in the Twin Cities, Duluth, Rochester and Crookston, according to the Minnesota Daily. It applies to all university property -- inside and out.

The policy also prohibits people from selling, distributing or advertising tobacco products and electronic cigarettes on university property.

The action comes nearly a year after the University Senate, made up of faculty, students and staff, passed a resolution in support of a smoking ban on the Twin Cities campus. At that time, University President Eric Kaler acknowledged that Minnesota is behind the curve on the issue. Dozens of other colleges and universities in Minnesota have enacted smoking bans already, the Star Tribune reported.

“A tobacco-free campus has become an expectation … rather than an innovation,” Kaler said at the time, according to the Star Tribune. “It’s about time for us.”

There are a couple of exceptions to the policy. Tobacco use is still allowed inside vehicles on campus. Smoking will also be allowed as part of research studies, traditional Native American ceremonies and theatrical productions.

Some question how a tobacco ban will be enforced. The policy doesn't include any formal mechanism for policing tobacco use, and doesn't outline any specific penalties for violators. Instead, it will rely on "all members of the university community" to enforce it less formally.

"The success of this policy will depend upon the thoughtfulness, consideration, and cooperation of everyone on campus, including tobacco-users and non-users," it says. "Students, faculty, staff, and visitors who violate this policy should be reminded of the policy and asked to comply."

Dave Golden, chair of the University Senate’s Social Concerns Committee, told the Minnesota Daily that most campuses use communication and social enforcement to impose smoke- or tobacco- free policies.

“We’re not asking police to stand outside and give tickets or anything like that,” he said.

Smoking is already banned on the University’s Crookston and Duluth campuses. Currently, smoking is allowed outside on the Twin Cities campus, but smokers must stay 25 feet away from university buildings, the Minnesota Daily reports.

Fewer than 3 percent of students on the Twin Cities campus reported daily tobacco use last year, according to Boynton Health Service’s 2013 College Student Health Survey. In that survey, about two-thirds of students also said they supported having a smoke-free campus.

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