University of California, which includes campuses in Berkely, Davis, Irvine, Los Angeles, Merced, Riverside, San Diego, San Francisco, Santa Barbara and Santa Cruz, has announced its intention to implement a total blanket ban on any kind of smoking or tobacco related product anywhere on its grounds, including all outdoor spaces.

The Chancellor of each campus is being asked to form a committee and is giving 24 months to make the necessary policy changes, to ensure that any university property, including leased buildings, are free from smoking.

The ban is also going to be applied to the unregulated inhaler products, known as e-cigarettes, which use capsules of nicotine and additives to mimic a real cigarette through the use of a vaporizer. Strictly speaking, the vapor is not a smoke, and there is no combustion involved, so it is legally possible to use the products where bans are in place. People report using e-cigarettes in airports and on board jetliners, where the strictest smoke free policies have been enforced for two decades now.

Not so, says the University of California. Their policy aims to remove all sales and advertising of tobacco products from every campus and in every possible way. Parking lots, outdoor parks and recreational areas, private residential space are all to be included.

President Mark G. Yudof says in his memorandum to The Chancellors that :

"Enforcement should be primarily educational, with an emphasis
on cessation resources."

He adds that :

"Offering a smoke-free environment will contribute positively to the health and well-being of all UC students, faculty, staff and our patients and visitors."

Smoking tobacco is already regulated and banned in many ways, so the UC decision should come as no surprise. Removing the e-cigarette from the menu simply prevents the odd "smart" student from circumventing the rules and starting a new fashion. UC Medical Centers have been smoke free for some time and 586 other University campuses are smoke-free.

It's becoming quite normal around the world to ban cigarette smoking in outdoor places, with many beaches (including Sydney's famous Bondi Beach) and parks (including Central Park, New York) putting smoking off limits.

Meanwhile, the UK is considering a blanket ban on smoking in the car, and it seems it's only a matter of time before the dreaded weed is banned in your own home too. Let's hope that the powers that be have the intelligence to know when to stop and leave smokers in peace, before people are paying $100 a pack for a lack market product only available on street corners, while gangsters make billions a year from heavy handed bureaucratically made decisions.

Colleen Stevens, chief of the tobacco control branch of the California Public Health Department backs up the decision, which is clearly the right thing to do, saying :

"This is a very important milestone in California ... In other states, most young people start smoking in their teens, but in California, that start date is getting older. This policy will help protect the next generation from suffering the horrible impacts of tobacco."

Research shows that hardly anyone starts smoking after their mid twenties, and those that quit before they are thirty are unlikely to ever start again. Figures also show that around ten percent of employees and eight percent of UC students smoke, so they are very much in the minority these days.

California has some of the strictest anti smoking laws and only 12 percent of Californians smoke, against a national average of nearly 20%, and while most smokers start in their early to late teens, with the age for starting smoking in California drifting later and later, University students are clearly in need of only a little encouragement and they will remain smoke free their whole lives.

Whilst no one can argue that it is a bad idea to encourage smoking in places where young people are finding their feet and developing habits that might last them a lifetime, a problem that is due to hit home in another decade or so, is when the cancer rates fail to drop and the spotlight turns to the myriad of toxic chemicals, insecticides, air-born contaminants, plastics, glues, paints and even cosmetic and food additives that are known to be highly carcinogenic. There should be plenty of interesting lawsuits - the question is whether these companies can survive, once public enemy number one is out of the picture.

Written by Rupert Shepherd