More Canadian university and college campuses going smoke-free: report

TORONTO — A growing number of university and college campuses across the country are now fully smoke-free — both indoors and out, says a report by the Canadian Cancer Society released Thursday.

The report says there are now 65 post-secondary institutions that prohibit smoking anywhere on campus, more than double the number in 2017, when 30 colleges and university campuses had implemented smoke-free policies. That‘s also a dramatic rise from a decade earlier, when only four such institutions had full smoking bans.

Dalhousie University in Halifax was among the first to make its campus 100 per cent smoke-free, in 2003. Those that have followed include the University of Regina, McMaster University in Hamilton and George Brown College in Toronto.

"The trend is accelerating," Rob Cunningham, senior policy analyst at the Canadian Cancer Society, said from Ottawa. "We‘ve seen the feasibility at various colleges and universities doing it, which then prompts encouragement to nearby institutions to do the same thing.

"That‘s positive because not only is there protection from second-hand smoke, but it‘s a great motivator for smokers to quit because it‘s less convenient."

Of the universities and colleges that are smoke-free, many have policies that also apply to cannabis, hookah smoking and e-cigarettes.

Next month‘s legalization of recreational marijuana is also spurring many post-secondary institutions to strengthen current smoke-free policies and may prod others to bring in their own bans.

"Suddenly, it‘s going to be legal to smoke cannabis. There are many underage students," said Cunningham, noting that depending on the province, those under the age of 18 or 19 are prohibited from smoking pot.

The easiest thing for all of the country‘s 260 colleges and universities to do, he said, "is to say you can‘t smoke anything anywhere on campus."

The Canadian Cancer Society is also concerned about the growing use of e-cigarettes, particularly among youth — a phenomenon the commissioner of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration characterized this week as an "epidemic of addiction," mainly driven by flavoured products.

"Most campuses adopting policies are applying them to smoking of anything, including cannabis, and applying it to e-cigarettes as well," said Cunningham.

"But it is good for policies to be comprehensive," he said. "One of the reasons for that is that you can consume cannabis through an e-cigarette. That‘s part of the context of why there shouldn‘t be vaping either on campus."