Duke University, which has a long history with tobacco, will go smoke-free in 2020

A statue of James Buchanan "Buck" Duke greets visitors to West Campus at Duke University.
A statue of James Buchanan "Buck" Duke greets visitors to West Campus at Duke University. Durham Herald-Sun

Duke University, and its Gothic-style campus built by tobacco money, will go smoke-free in 2020.

In a letter Monday to students, faculty and staff, the university's president, Vincent Price, announced a newly adopted policy that will prohibit the use of tobacco smoke on all Duke property and grounds starting July 1, 2020.

Included in the ban will be cigarettes, cigars and hookahs but not chewing tobacco, e-cigarettes or therapeutic nicotine products. On-campus stores will stop selling tobacco products this July.

"In taking this important step, Duke will be joining many other colleges and universities across the country that have adopted smoke-free policies," Price wrote. "Smoking is the leading cause of preventable death in North Carolina and the United States. Research reveals that two thirds of smokers will die from an illness caused by smoking. This new policy reflects our commitment to the health of every person who studies or works in our community."

He said the two-year period before the policy's implementation will allow "sufficient time and opportunity" for people to seek help to stop smoking. The Duke Center for Smoking Cessation will offer a treatment program to support those who want to quit.

Universities have strengthened their anti-tobacco policies in recent years.

UNC-Chapel Hill, for example, extended its no-smoking boundary from inside buildings to 100 feet away from facilities in 2008. Smoking has been banned in state-owned cars, and in 2011, the state fire marshal prohibited smoking in the woods around UNC's Kenan Stadium. N.C. State University revised its smoking policy in 2015. Smoking is now prohibited within 25 feet of buildings on the Raleigh campus, unless there has been a special outdoor smoking area designated away from entrances and air vents.

Duke has a complicated history with tobacco.

Its hospital, including a large cancer center, has for decades treated patients with diseases caused by tobacco use.

The university's benefactors, the Duke family, made their fortune in tobacco and hydroelectric power.

Washington Duke grew tobacco on his farm, now known as the Duke Homestead. His son, James Buchanan Duke, ushered in an era of cigarette manufacturing with the first automated machine that produced cigarettes. He founded the American Tobacco Company in Durham. "Buck" Duke is depicted in a statue near the Duke Chapel.

Durham is no longer a tobacco town. Its brick cigarette company warehouses, a stone's throw from Duke, have redeveloped into apartments, retail spaces and trendy restaurants. The Lucky Strike smokestack downtown still stands.

Jane Stancill: 919-829-4559, @janestancill