Smoke-free air policies on college campuses may reduce students' smoking rates, a recent study found.
Researchers at Indiana University found that smoking was substantially reduced there in the two years after the campus instituted a policy that banned smoking on campus, including outdoor areas.
Colleges in the Chattanooga area have policies that vary in the extent to which they allow smoking in outside areas on campus.
The University of Indiana study shows the smoking rate decreased and smokers smoked less from 2007 to 2009 despite the fact that the policy was minimally enforced, said Dong-Chul Seo, one of the study's authors.
In comparison, the study found that the smoking rates and the number of cigarettes smoked increased during the same time period at Purdue University, where smoking was allowed at least 30 feet from campus facilities.
According to statistics cited in the Indiana study, nationally in 2009 about 22 percent of 18- to 24-year-olds smoked cigarettes. The smoking rate among college students peaked in 1999 and declined throughout the next decade.
Because students at Indiana who continued to smoke were not penalized, "this is a surprising result," Seo said. However, the findings might be explained by the sharp increase in students' awareness of the policy and the university's publicity of the anti-smoking message on a campus bus, he said.
Lee University in Cleveland, Tenn., has a policy like that of Indiana's, banning smoking everywhere on campus, including in all outside spaces, said Vice President of Administration Walt Mauldin.
The campus has such a policy because smoking can be detrimental to people's health, Mauldin said. He said that people try to adhere to the policy but may smoke elsewhere.
About five years ago, the college -- affiliated with the Church of God -- started putting up signs on athletic fields notifying people of the policy, Mauldin said. However, he said the policy has probably been in existence since the school was founded in 1918.
"It's been a tradition here," Mauldin said. "Our denomination supports that view."
Covenant College, another Christian school, prohibits students from possessing or using tobacco on campus, according to its student handbook. In many circumstances, students are also prohibited from possessing or using tobacco products off campus as well.
Other schools in the area ban smoking inside but do not completely ban smoking outside.
Last month, the University of Tennessee system issued a new system-wide policy that bans smoking within 25 feet of doorways, windows and ventilation systems outside. The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga already had a similar policy in place.
The new system-wide policy was designed to implement overarching guidelines and to comply with state laws, UT system spokeswoman Gina Stafford said.
UTC junior Rachel Stimson said she supports the policy because she doesn't want to smell cigarettes at entryways to buildings.
"Overall, it's a good thing," she said.
While she thinks it's hard for the school to prevent students from smoking off campus, "they can enforce anything they want to enforce" on campus.
Chattanooga State Community College's policy, which was implemented in 2007, bans smoking within 50 feet of buildings, said Chattanooga State spokesman Jeff Olingy.
The policy is designed not to segregate smokers but to ensure that those who don't smoke are not negative impacted by fumes, Olingy said.
"We're not here to tell people not to smoke," Olingy said.
The school publicizes its policy in its student handbook and on signs on buildings, but students said the signs are not respected by all smokers.
"It's kind of like half and half," Chattanooga State freshman Chelsea Anderson said about the signs. "It all depends on the person."
Allison Holmes, who attended Chattanooga State when the school put up no-smoking signs, said that people at the time would grab a tape measure to make sure they could still smoke without getting into trouble.
Holmes, who recently graduated from UTC, said she doesn't think smoking bans work.
"It's a silly idea," she said.