The College of Charleston will go tobacco-free July 1, but so far the ban doesn't apply to public streets and sidewalks within the downtown campus.
Signs are posted around the school alerting the community about the new rules, which apply to all forms of tobacco, including cigarettes, cigars, pipes and chewing tobacco. It also applies to electronic cigarettes, which contain nicotine.
The policy bans the use of tobacco products in all college-owned or leased buildings and on all college-owned or leased land. Smoking will be permitted in personal vehicles parked or being driven on college-owned or leased property, provided the windows and doors are closed.
Sean Stivaletta, student body vice president, said reaction to the ban has been mixed. Many students support it because it's progressive, green and promotes healthy lifestyles. "But some people are hesitant about how it will be enforced and implemented," he said.
Smoking is being limited to fewer public places nationwide in response to concerns about the cancer-causing dangers of second-hand smoke. Many cities, including Charleston, have banned indoor smoking in such places as restaurants and bars and restricted it to designated outdoor areas in workplaces.
In 2013, the city of Charleston outlawed smoking on public sidewalks, streets and inside parked cars for several blocks around Roper Hospital and the Medical University of South Carolina. People who live near MUSC have complained the campus ban there pushed smokers into the neighborhoods, where they congregate and litter the area with cigarette butts.
Brian McGee, chief of staff for President George Benson, said the college is considering asking the city to ban smoking on the public streets and sidewalks within the College of Charleston campus, as well.
College leaders have met with City Councilman Mike Seekings to discuss the matter, McGee said. Seekings mentioned the problems cited by neighbors of MUSC, McGee said, so college leaders decided to first put in place the ban on their own property, before deciding whether to ask the city to extend it to public streets and sidewalks.
Tamara Spargur, who works at the college as a data coordinator, said the ban means "I have to walk farther for a cigarette."
She doesn't plan to quit, she said. "I can't just stop right now. A 10-year habit won't just break in a month or even six months." She also said she's concerned about how the ban will impact students. "It will push them to areas that aren't as safe" for a smoke, she said. "It concerns me."
Jeri Cabot, interim executive vice president for student affairs, said the college's board approved the ban in October.
The college already had restricted where people could smoke, she said. But now even those designated areas will be marked tobacco-free.
A recent survey found only about 13 percent of students smoked regularly, she said. College leaders still are working out consequences for people who violate the new rules, Cabot said. But they likely will begin with verbal and written warnings.
The ban was put in place for health reasons, she said. "And a clear majority of students were in favor of it."
Reach Diane Knich at 843-937-5491 or on Twitter at @dianeknich.
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