CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) - A major Charlotte-area university says its joining a growing number of colleges and universities across the United States by adopting a tobacco-free campus policy.
Johnson C. Smith University announced Tuesday the new policy would take effect January 1, 2015 and would "extend to all campus grounds and university-owned and operated properties."
University officials say smoking has been prohibited inside JCSU's buildings for a while, but this new policy expands the existing ban.
"Not only will this new policy affect cigarette smoking, it will encompass other tobacco and smoking products such as e-cigarettes," the university announced Tuesday.
University officials say an information campaign will take place over the next five months to help inform students and employees about the new policy.
According to Americans for Nonsmokers' Rights, there are now at least 1,477 100% smoke-free campuses, as of Oct. 1. Of these, 975 are 100% tobacco-free and 291 prohibit the use of e-cigarettes anywhere on campus.
"JCSU is proud to soon join these institutions as we strive to uphold our commitment to create a happy and healthy environment for faculty, staff, students and visitors," said Dr. Ronald L. Carter, president of JCSU.
Central Piedmont Community College, Gardner Webb, Wingate and Pfeiffer universities have tobacco-free policies on its campuses already.
JCSU's tobacco-free policy will nearly coincide with Mecklenburg County's proposed tobacco-free policy for all county parks. This includes JSCU's county-owned softball field used by JCSU near the campus.
Mecklenburg County Commissioners had been scheduled to vote on the proposed smoking ban in mid-Septemmber which would ban smoking on grounds of county and municipal government buildings and a ban of all tobacco use at county parks, greenways and golf courses.
That vote is expected to take plan on Oct. 21.
According to The Charlotte Observer, Mecklenburg County Manager Dena Diorio said the two ordinances could look different from the original versions – with golf courses possibly being exempt from the ban, for instance.
If they change, the county must provide a 10-day public notice for what commissioners will vote on.
"As Mecklenburg County's Health Director, I would like to applaud Johnson C. Smith University for showing bold leadership in adopting a 100 percent tobacco-free campus policy for students, staff and visitors," said Dr. Marcus Plescia.
"A tobacco-free policy sends a clear message that the university values the well-being of its students, employees and the community, and is willing to take steps to promote a culture of health on campus."
A study released last month by the NC Youth Tobacco Survey found fewer middle school and high school students are smoking cigarettes.
But the study did find that overall tobacco use is on the rise and fewer young smokers are trying to quit.
The new study found tobacco use was up among teens in North Carolina to 29.7 percent from 25.8 percent since the last survey in 2011.
While fewer students smoke cigarettes, more teens have turned to other tobacco products.
Electronic cigarette use tripled since 2011 and use of water pipes or hookahs have become more popular as well.