New York: Of the top 100 universities as ranked by the US News and World Report, 11 allow tobacco sales and 13 allow e-cigarette sales on "campus cash" debit cards that are commonly prepaid by parents, says a study by University of Colorado's cancer centre.
Many colleges offer prepaid debit cards linked to students' campus ID cards that can be used either at on-campus vending areas like bookstores and cafeterias, and/or at off-campus vendors that act like preferred providers.
Providers generally pay a premium to be included in these campus-linked networks.
"Universities shouldn't be taking debit card fees from in-network vendors selling tobacco products to their students," said the study's senior author Robert Dellavalle, associate professor of dermatology at the University of Colorado School of Medicine.
Parents put money on these debit cards and kids spend the money.
"What parents do not realise is that tobacco may be purchased with some of these college debit cards," Dellavalle added.
The current study examined online lists of on and off-campus vendors (with phone and e-mail follow-up as needed) to discover universities whose policies allow the sale of tobacco and e-cigarettes within the campus debit card network.
"Cracking down on this 'campus cash' is a major opportunity for these colleges to take a step toward preventing tobacco use on their campuses," first author Lindsay Boyers from Georgetown University noted.
"As an organisation dedicated to university health, the American College Health Association can take a stand on this issue by banning universities from selling tobacco products on campus and prohibiting debit card purchase of off-campus tobacco products," Dellavalle stressed.
The study was published in the British Medical Journal: Tobacco Control.