Welcome to our tobacco-free campus!

Louisiana State University is now tobacco-free! What does that mean to you, a member of the LSU community, or a visitor to campus?

No tobacco use is allowed on LSU property. This includes cigarettes, cigars, water pipes/hookahs, e-cigarettes, and all forms of smokeless tobacco, such as chewing tobacco and snuff.

Becoming tobacco-free has not been an easy achievement. Many discussions involving many members of the campus community weighed the health and economic reasons to take this step with concerns about lost productivity or increased student absences from classes as smokers spend more time away from campus to take their smoking breaks. In the end, the many benefits to having a tobacco-free campus outweighed the potential inconvenience to those addicted to nicotine.

The passage of Louisiana Act 211 also provided the metaphorical shove LSU and other public state campuses needed to deal with secondhand smoke exposure to non-smokers and the extreme amount of tobacco-related litter on campus that costs LSU a minimum of $37,000 a year to clean up. Act 211 required all public campuses to have a tobacco policy in place by Aug. 1, 2014.

LSU also is joining a national movement to encourage smoking cessation among young people with the lofty goal of creating a tobacco-free generation.

But, make no mistake. American tobacco companies are joining forces to create new products designed to entice college age and younger kids to take up the tobacco habit and replace the thousands of smokers who die in this state and country every year. Tobacco companies are currently free to advertise e-cigarettes in channels such as television and youth magazines, avenues that have been denied to cigarettes since the 1960s. The FDA finally has taken up consideration of regulating e-cigarettes, just as the agency regulates other tobacco products.

Before you use any tobacco product -- especially the newer devices such as hookahs and e-cigarettes -- take the time to educate yourself with the facts about these products and not fall for psychologically well-crafted messages from tobacco companies. The bottom line -- no tobacco product is safe.

If you are a current tobacco user, please take a minute to consider how tobacco is influencing your life and possibly the lives of those around you. Nicotine addiction is powerful. Hardly anyone who tried that first cigarette intended to become addicted.

Here is the call to action. If you don't current use tobacco products, don't start. Step up and gently let anyone you see using tobacco products on campus know that we now have a campus tobacco-free policy. If you do use tobacco products, work out in advance your strategy for getting through the day without smoking on campus. If you want to quit, support is available from the Student Health Center or from 1-800-QUITNOW. When you need facts or information or want to ask a question, visit this website: www.lsu.edu/smokingwords or come back to this blog and leave comments.

Thank you for not smoking on the LSU campus!