By the end of the year, all three of our area’s college campuses will be officially tobacco-free. Mississippi University for Women implemented its new tobacco policy on July 1. Mississippi State implements a similar policy on Aug. 1 while East Mississippi Community College will go tobacco-free on Jan. 1, 2017.
All three policies prohibit tobacco use in all forms, including “vapes” or “ecigarettes” from school property.
No doubt, the policies will take some getting used to for tobacco-users, especially smokers. Even so, as more and more public spaces are implementing bans, smokers have adjusted and generally conform.
The debate over the dangers of tobacco has long ended, of course, and those who choose to smoke or use tobacco in other forms understand and accept the risk that goes with that behavior.
We believe these bans are especially meaningful on college campuses, mainly because of the demographics found there.
Young people ages 18 to 24 are the most vulnerable to tobacco addiction and the stress-relieving effects of tobacco, whether real or simply imagined, comes at an age when young people are transitioning into independent lives, whether it’s in the work force or in the college environment. It is an age where they begin to make choices for themselves and accept the responsibility for those choices.
That is why we are encouraged by what we are seeing in our society.
According to data from the Center for Disease Control, use of tobacco among the 18-24 demographic has decreased more than any other group over the most recent 10-year period for which that data is available.
In 2005, 24.4 percent of those ages 18 to 24, were smokers. Ten years later, that percentage has fallen to 16.4 percent.
The decline for this group is significant. Studies show that if you aren’t a smoker by your early 20s, you are unlikely to form that habit later.
We applaud our colleges for helping keep that momentum going. Peer pressure and support can be powerful influences on behavior. Creating an environment where tobacco use is discouraged can only produce a good result.
The Dispatch Editorial Board is made up of publisher Peter Imes, columnist Slim Smith, managing editor Zack Plair and senior newsroom staff.