While precise statistics on the number of campuses curtailing tobacco are elusive, Patterson estimates that one-third to one-half of all higher education institutions have either made the move or are considering it.
Smoking rights advocate Audrey Silk, founder of New York Citizens Lobbying Against Smoker Harassment, says any outdoor ban — whether for a campus, beach or public park — is an attack on the rights of one segment of the population.
"This isn't a health issue anymore. It's a moral issue," she says. "There's absolutely zero reason for a smoking ban outdoors. They use it as a tool. Harm from smoke outdoors is an excuse to frustrate smokers into quitting because they can't find a place to light up."
Silk says it's not the place of schools to enforce health issues.
"Schools are a business," she says. "Who assigned them the role of behavior modification? It's their responsibility to educate. What they're doing is indoctrinating."
Tobacco companies have also questioned the role of universities to take such steps. With limited lobbying power at the college level, they have pursued legislation in some states to pre-empt tobacco-control decisions from occurring at any but the state level.
A spokesman for Philip Morris USA Inc., the nation's largest tobacco company, deferred comment to the company website, which states that some smoking restrictions are justified but that all-out bans "go too far."
"Smoking should be permitted outdoors except in very particular circumstances, such as outdoor areas primarily designed for children," it states.
Seitter, who now works as development coordinator for the Columbus Board of Realtors, says budding college smokers often took up the habit after-hours, at venues such as bars that campus tobacco bans don't reach.
"You find a lot of people start drinking at that age, and many people who don't consider themselves smokers, they smoke when they drink," she says. "I would think that atmosphere has more of an effect than somebody smoking on the corner."
Contributing to this report were Associated Press writers Alan Scher Zagier in Columbia, Mo.; Michael Gormley and Rik Stevens in Albany, N.Y.; Kathy Matheson in Philadelphia; and Kevin Begos in Pittsburgh.
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