Smoking banned entirely at colleges

Smokers say 14 state schools went too far

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Anyone who figures the cost of college ought to entitle them to light up at least now and again better take a deep breath before approaching any of Pennsylvania's 14 state-owned universities.

All of them now prohibit smoking, both inside buildings and on all outdoor grounds.

The move affects 110,000 students and 12,000 campus employees statewide, including those on the Western Pennsylvania campuses of California, Clarion, Edinboro, Indiana and Slippery Rock universities.

Leaders of the State System of Higher Education say the decision is their interpretation of Pennsylvania's new smoking ban, which took effect Thursday. Its statewide prohibitions extend to educational facilities, and the question became just where to draw the line on sprawling public universities.

"We consider our entire campuses educational facilities, inside and out," state system spokesman Kenn Marshall said yesterday. "We have classes that meet outdoors. We have events that are held outdoors.

"We're just basically following a state law," he said. "This is the way we read it."

The campuswide bans are all-encompassing, from athletic facilities and classroom labs to the student union and even parking lots within campus boundaries.

There are no designated smoking areas, so those who insist on lighting up must leave campus or violate the law, officials said.

Mr. Marshall said the final decision was made this week by Chancellor John Cavanaugh after several weeks of consultations with campus presidents, members of the state system's board of governors and legal counsel. Notices went around campuses this week.

State system officials say the move is consistent with initiatives to promote good health.

It is likely to be a hit with those tired of second-hand smoke. But it also is sparking complaints and protests that extend to the Internet, where one outraged member of a Facebook group formed to oppose the ban called it "fascism."

Some questioned how it can possibly be enforced.

At Clarion University of Pennsylvania, organizers of a "smoke-in" set for noon Monday hope to assemble 100 or more protesters outside Gemmell Complex, the university's student center.

"We're going to sit in a big circle. We're all going to light up at the same time," said Steven Dugan, 20, a freshman from Sheraden. "The non-smokers who support us are going to sit with us."

He said he can understand a ban in classroom buildings, but said in his view the state system went too far.

A statement issued by Clarion yesterday did not indicate how it would handle Monday's protest.

"The university is planning to staff the event to ensure that the demonstration is peaceful and orderly," it read. " We will be prepared for any response that is warranted."


Bill Schackner can be reached at bschackner@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1977.


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