OPELIKA, AL (WTVM) - Administrators at Opelika's Southern Union Community Collage took a major step this week towards providing a healthier and cleaner campus for students, staff and visitors.
This week Southern Union Students returned to class for fall semester to a tobacco free campus. That means no smoking, chewing tobacco or using e-cigarettes. For a few weeks, you will be warned if you are caught using tobacco on campus. After the grace period, violators will face a $25 fine.
Bright blue and yellow balloons draw attention to the Tobacco and Smoke Free signs along Southern Union's Campus. The students on campus are thankful for the change.
"I think it's a good thing, I saw someone smoking and they threw the cigarette in the bush and I thought Lord Jesus a fire, but it is a good thing, smoke gets in your lungs and I like my lungs, it's a real good thing," said Kyle Robinson, SU Student.
"There were cigarette butts everywhere, it was really nasty it was the one thing I didn't like about Southern Union," said student Brittany Wilson.
Southern Union's President and administrators have worked for two years to bring their tobacco free vision to live. Around 74 percent of students, faculty and staff were in favor of the ban.
Smoking kills more Americans than alcohol, car crashes, AIDS-related deaths,fires, heroin, cocaine, homicide and suicide combined. Tobacco use is the leading cause of preventable death. Tobacco free policies also reduce health and maintenance costs for collages.
As of July 1, there are more than 1,500 smoke-free campuses in the United States. More than one thousand campuses are smoke free and tobacco free. More than 700 campus's, including Southern Union, prohibit the use of cigarettes, all forms of tobacco along with electronic cigarettes.
Southern Union decided to ban e-cigarettes because they say the jury is still out on the health ramifications.
Southern Union officials say a smoke free campus encourages students to not start or even quit tobacco use. Studies show that tobacco use peaks from 18 to 25 years of age and college attendance can be a turning point in choosing not to use tobacco.