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Buying tobacco with a university ID

Prepaid debit functionality on campus ID cards is a common utility at colleges and universities nationwide. These accounts can provide students with a valuable and convenient means to make necessary purchases, while providing parents the ability to ensure that their student has the necessary funds to survive on their own.

But once the funds are transferred from mom and dad, only the student’s discretion is left to ensure that the money is spent wisely. Now, a University of Colorado Cancer Center study published in a British medical journal shows that of the top 100 universities in the U.S. News and World Report, 11 allow tobacco sales and 13 allow e-cigarette sales via campus debit accounts.

In all, 94 of the 100 surveyed universities included an ID-linked debit card program — a total enrollment of 1,452,048 students. Previous research shows that of university students who smoke, 42% had used campus debit cards to purchase cigarettes.

Those universities that allow tobacco purchases only represent a small subset of higher ed. The study examined online lists of on- and off-campus vendors to discover universities whose policies allow the sale of tobacco and e-cigarettes within the campus debit card network.

Researchers behind the study argue that what is sold on college campuses and within the networks of campus-approved vendors can reflect what is deemed to be socially acceptable behavior. The report further suggests that universities could make strides in student health and well being by banning the sale of tobacco products on campus and prohibiting and university debit card purchase of tobacco products off campus.

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