Like many other American universities, Duke is going smoke-free. Unlike almost all the others, the wealthy private research school will not ban non-combustible tobacco — including vapes.
“The policy will prohibit the use of combustible tobacco products, including cigarettes, cigars, cigarillos, and hookahs, but it will not apply to non-combustible forms of tobacco such as e-cigarettes, chewing tobacco, or therapeutic products containing nicotine,” says a message to students and staff from Duke’s president Vincent Price.
The distinction between smoked tobacco and non-combustible is significant and unusual. Tobacco control activists don’t separate vapes from smoking or smokeless tobacco. The American Nonsmokers’ Rights Foundation’s smoke-free campus page brags that 1,741 colleges and universities “also prohibit e-cigarette use everywhere,” in addition to banning smoking. That’s most of the 2,164 schools that have banned some form of tobacco, smoking or vaping.
The Duke campus is going completely smoke-free. The rules will be enforced on all Duke property, not just in buildings, where smoking and vaping are already banned. James Davis, the director of the Duke Smoking Cessation Program, thinks the change will prevent many incoming students from taking up cigarettes.
Davis told the Daily Tar Heel that a Duke study showed under two percent of incoming freshmen are regular smokers, but after living on campus, 11.4 percent smoke. “This is a dramatic increase, and what we found was students were learning to smoke and becoming regular smokers while they were here at Duke,” Davis told the paper.
The move is ironic. Duke’s history is bound together with tobacco, and especially cigarettes. Duke is located in Durham, N.C., and named after donor James Buchanan Duke, who began his American Tobacco Company there. The industrial magnate — the first to use cigarette rolling machines to produce cigarettes — at one time controlled 90 percent of the U.S. cigarette market. He also co-founded the power company that later morphed into what is now called Duke Energy.
American Tobacco was ruled an illegal monopoly in 1906, and broken into four smaller companies: American Tobacco Company, Liggett and Myers, RJ Reynolds, and Lorillard. And while cigarettes haven’t been produced in Durham for a couple decades, the city’s historic Tobacco District is there as a reminder — along with the Lucky Strike water tower.