Going Tobacco Free – Smoking at Concordia College

Posts from the Past: From 1943 to 1970, only women were prohibited from smoking on campus.

The use of tobacco has always been a hotly debated topic on college and university campuses. The resounding opinion in church-affiliated organizations was that smoking was not an activity students, especially women, should not partake in. In 1891, the Concordia College course catalog stated, “A student is forbidden to use tobacco in the school buildings or on the premises.”[i] This was the only policy that was in place in regard to smoking or the use of tobacco until 1943. Students were subject to disciplinary action if they were caught violating this policy. Disciplinary action included salutary counsel regarding the infractions and went all the way to expulsion if a student was found guilty of multiple infractions.

In 1943, the smoking policy was revised for the first time. It stated, “Concordia College women are not permitted to smoke.”[ii] This new policy removed the restrictions that had previously been in place on male students in regards to smoking. No longer was the entire student body prohibited to smoke, only the female students. One major complaint regarding this policy was that it was going to force women to choose between smoking in secret or in places off-campus that were deemed “inappropriate.” Despite some objections, however, this policy was in place with almost no revisions until the tumultuous years leading up to 1970.

Beginning in 1968, students began protesting what they deemed to be an unfair and narrow policy. Students began staging protests that came to be known as “smoke-ins,” where people would light up cigarettes while occupying campus spaces. It was noted that even non-smokers would take part in the protests by smoking cigarettes alongside their classmates. In 1970, the Board of Regents voted on an amendment to the policy that would remove the restriction on women for smoking. The amendment was passed with a vote of 5-2.

This vote set off a period of time where the smoking policy changed rapidly. After the amendment in 1970 was passed the new policy stated “the college strongly discourages all students from smoking because of the evidence health hazard … the food service dining rooms and snack bars, Commons, fieldhouse (other than the main gymnasium), and music hall lounge, are permissible smoking areas.”[iii] However, it would not be long before the discussion about restricting permissible smoking areas began. In 1987, a survey was released to faculty and staff at Concordia. It stated that the college was currently in the process of reviewing the smoking policy and wanted feedback on people’s opinions on appropriate places to smoke. Results for six out of 10 questions supported a total ban on smoking in certain places on campus such as classrooms, hallways, and restrooms. Results for the other four questions supported designated areas for smoking in cafeterias and breakrooms. By 1989, smoking was only allowed in portions of the Normandy, the Red Room of the Dining Center, campus offices after business hours and certain designated dorm rooms. In 1991, smoking was officially banned inside all campus buildings. In order to support faculty, staff, and students as smoking spaces on campus diminished, Concordia offered referrals to counseling and programs to assist people in their efforts to stop smoking. 

The last and final change to the smoking policy came in 2014. During the 2013-14 academic year, a working group of faculty, staff and students surveyed the campus and found an overwhelming opposition to smoking. Concordia’s campus would officially become a tobacco-free campus on Aug. 18, 2014, and has remained that way since.

Contributed by Allison Bundy, archives associate, Concordia College Archives

[i] Concordia College. Concordia College Course Catalog. Moorhead, MN: 1891-1892. Page 19.

[ii] Concordia College. Concordia College Course Catalog. Moorhead, MN: 1942-1943. Page 35.

[iii] Concordia College. Student Handbook. Moorhead, MN: 1970-1971. Page 36.