CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- On campus today, at Marshall and West Virginia universities, not much looks different from how it looked last week.
But pay attention, and you might notice that the receptacles for discarded cigarettes aren't there anymore. And there are probably a few signs scattered here and there, declaring that you're on a tobacco-free college campus. The air might be a little clearer.
And that signifies a huge shift in policy at West Virginia's two largest universities.
Both schools decided recently — WVU in June of 2012, Marshall on June 11 — to implement tobacco bans on their campuses. Both bans take effect today, July 1.
That puts the schools in step with a slew of other colleges nationwide that have been taking up smoking and tobacco bans. At last count, 783 schools had instituted tobacco-free policies, meaning that they don't allow smoking or other tobacco products on campus, according to the American Nonsmokers' Rights Foundation. More than 1,150 schools have policies against smoking cigarettes on campus.
"I think in general, I think what we've seen over the last five years is this rapid growth in the number of college campuses doing this," said Cynthia Hallett, executive director at the foundation. "The number of these campus policies has grown exponentially."
These will be the first schools in West Virginia to ban all tobacco products, though a few already have smoking bans in place — including the health sciences campuses at both Marshall and WVU.
Amy Johns, director of public relations at WVU Healthcare and Health Sciences, saw the transition take place at WVU's health sciences campus in 2010.
She said that transition was generally smooth. There was some pushback from the community — but not a lot.