The Ohio Board of Regents this week unanimously urged the state's public two-year and four-year colleges to snuff out smoking on campus. At a time when most state officials would rather ignore this health hazard, the regents' vote was a breath of fresh air.
Fewer Americans light up today than 20 years ago. But in recent years, the percentage of adult Ohioans who smoke has leveled off between 22.5 percent and 26 percent, depending on whose numbers you use.
Smoking causes serious health problems -- cancer, emphysema, heart disease, high blood pressure -- that affect not only smokers, but also people exposed to second-hand smoke. This deadly addiction adds $96 billion a year to the nation's health-care costs.
Most adults who smoke began as teenagers, most often in high school or college. So it makes sense for Ohio colleges and universities to discourage smoking before the habit becomes ingrained. The regents' proposal would be a good way to accomplish this.
The University of Toledo Health Science Campus and Miami University already are smoke-free. UT's main campus restricts smoking to seven designated areas. Bowling Green State University and Ohio State University generally follow the state smoking-ban guidelines, and BGSU prohibits smoking in dormitories.
There will be grumbling, of course. The Cincinnati Enquirer reported that a student-initiated resolution to ban smoking on the University of Cincinnati campus met resistance from faculty and graduate students. But as the lack of complaints about Miami University's four-year-old ban demonstrates, people who continue to smoke will adjust.
Ohio had made progress encouraging young people to quit smoking or not to start, until the state Supreme Court decided two years ago that anti-smoking funds could be used to help balance the state budget.
The regents' vote gives officials at the state's two- and four-year colleges the chance to breathe new life into the anti-smoking effort.