By ANDY LINDBERG/Montana State News

Three Years ago, Montana State University became “tobacco free MSU” as it banned students, staff and visitors from smoking on University property. University officials and related student government bodies implemented the policy in efforts to reduce exposure to toxic litter, and prevent what the campaign calls “involuntary and harmful exposure to passive smoke and tobacco waste.”

MSU is one of a handful of colleges in the state to ban tobacco use on campus, along with the University of Montana in Missoula and MSU Billings. Aside from traditional cigarettes, the policy bans all smokeless tobacco including electronic cigarettes and spit less tobacco.

“I can’t believe the difference the tobacco free movement has brought to our campus, it’s really a peace of mind for students trying to quit,” says Trey Alberda, a university employee and advocate for the measure.

Recent smoking bans on campuses around the state have come from a bigger push from state and federal officials to reduce smoking rates by boosting spending on various anti-smoking campaigns.

Subsequently, many students are smoking less. Some students are saying the advertisements work, and are contributing to a declining popularity of tobacco use among younger adults.

“I think the signs and other campaigns advertisements were really effective, I absolutely acknowledged the posters and signs around campus…  I don’t smoke, but I appreciate the clean air now more than ever,” says student Henry Emack.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, statewide smoking rates have been steadily in decline from 22 percent in 2011, to 19 percent in 2013.

The Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids says the repercussions on Montana smokers are significant: an estimated $277 million annually in government health care costs.

“That’s money that’s not going towards schools, or bettering the community, but towards people who are making bad decisions with their personal health… that’s an issue we need to talk about,” says Alberda.

Adam Schroeder, a lab technician is among those happy with the changes in smoking policy around campus. He says the changes have helped him quit smoking for good, something he wasn’t able to do on his own.

“I didn’t understand how bothersome the dormant smoke was until I quit smoking, not being able to walk out of class and light up helped me realize that,” says Schroeder.

– Edited by Eric Joondeph

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