A recent study found eight out of ten University of Wisconsin students support a tobacco-free campus.

The study, conducted by the Tobacco-Free Columbia Dane County Coalition in conjunction with Madison and Dane County Public Health and SPARK-UW Madison, found 81 percent of nearly 10,000 survey respondents supported UW going tobacco-free. Eighty-five percent of faculty and academic staff, as well as 77 percent of university staff, also supported a tobacco-free campus.

A tobacco-free campus would most likely involve a campus-wide ban on tobacco products, from cigarettes to e-cigarettes. According to a study by the Centers for Disease Control, there are 1,743 campuses nationwide considered tobacco-free. Of those, five are in the Big Ten conference, including the University of Minnesota, The Ohio State University, Michigan State University, the University of Nebraska and Penn State.

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While these schools’ policies all vary slightly, the basic idea is the same: banning smoking and e-cigarettes on campus premises. According to UW Health, a tobacco-free campus aims to provide the best possible environment for everyone on campus.

“A smoke-free and tobacco-free campus will provide a healthier environment for employees, visitors and patients, and will underscore our commitment to support the health of our employees, patients and community,” the website says.

The TFCDC survey also looked at student experiences. Forty percent of respondents who had used cigarettes in the last 30 days and 30 percent of those who had used e-cigarettes reported that UW is where they first began using the substance.

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In addition, three out of four respondents reported being exposed to secondhand smoke. Even indirect contact with tobacco can have dangerous effects, according to the press release announcing the survey results. 

“Nicotine can change the structure of a still-developing young adult brain, making it more susceptible to other addicting behaviors,” SPARK President Marina Caliendo said. “Our campus organization is dedicated to educating the UW-Madison campus about the harmful effects of tobacco use, including vaping.”