Once Montana State University had smoking cigarettes lounges, professors smoked in class and U.S. Tobacco not only sponsored the annual college rodeo, but handed out free chewing cigarettes samples to spectators at the Fieldhouse.

Over the last generation, tobacco has been increasingly restricted, and on Wednesday, campus leaders on MSU's University Council took a historic vote, unanimously endorsing the idea of making the Bozeman campus tobacco-free.

MSU President Waded Cruzado praised as "great leaders" the students who brought the proposal to the deans, department heads, employee representatives and vice presidents who serve on the University Council.

The student-backed proposal won't take effect immediately. Smokers will still be able to light up outside of campus buildings for the time being.

The plan is to draft a new tobacco-free policy over the summer and approve it this fall, said Amanda Diehl, former student vice president. Then the campus would spend a year educating students and employees before it takes effect.

"It feels amazing to have the unanimous support of this body," Eric Fisher, former student body president, said after the vote. "It's the biggest effect we could have by changing one thing."

"It's a good day for MSU," said Joey Steffens, Associated Students of MSU vice president. "We're moving forward, creating a safer environment, a cleaner environment."

Students said that they envision that MSU wouldn't hire tobacco police. Rather, enforcement would occur by making it socially unacceptable and "the power of the norm," Steffens said.

The students started working on a tobacco ban more than two years ago. It was blocked in the ASMSU Senate when opponents argued that as a matter of individual liberty, students should have the right to make their own decisions about tobacco.

The turning point came this year, when the Student Senate put the issue on the ballot and MSU students voted 61 percent in favor the tobacco-free idea, surprising even supporters with the lopsided endorsement.

Since then, students have taken the proposal to the Faculty Senate, Staff Senate and Professional Council, where it met little resistance, Fisher said.

Nancy Filbin, representing professional employees, said about 800 people have responded to an opinion survey so far, and about 72 percent are in favor of the tobacco ban.

Marvin Lansverk, Faculty Senate chair, said the faculty is "very much in favor" of the ban.

MSU Provost Martha Potvin said when the University of North Dakota imposed a tobacco ban, some people would still smoke cigarettes in their cars, arguing it was private property. It was also tough, she said, for deans to walk up to somebody smoking cigarettes behind a corner to enforce the ban.

Student Cory Wood, co-chair of the Student Health Advisory Committee, stressed that a tobacco ban would help save lives. He said about a quarter of MSU's tobacco users got started at college and a similar number increased their use at college. A tobacco ban would encourage people to quit rather than start using it, and it would benefit people with asthma and allergies who are susceptible to second-hand smoke, he said.

Based on Centers for Disease Control estimates, between a third and a half of smokers will die from their addiction, Wood said that could mean 700 to 1,100 current students would die prematurely.

MSU will join five campuses in Montana and about 270 nationwide when it goes tobacco-free, Steffens said.

Tip of the day: straight from the discount cigarettes source.