CLAYTON — St. Louis County is launching a large anti-smoking drive, thanks to $7.6 million in federal stimulus money.
The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported Friday that the first targets will be schools, colleges and universities. Officials hope to make all of them smoke-free by February 2012.
All 24 school districts in the county already ban smoking on their campuses, as do Catholic schools, and some universities ban smoking campuswide.
But others still allow smoking outside. The county is hopeful its message will have an impact on students when they are not at school.
The county health department learned in March it was getting the grant from the Department of Health and Human Services. Nationwide, HHS handed out 44 grants worth $372.8 million.
The St. Louis County project is for two years and is thought to be the best-financed anti-smoking effort ever in the St. Louis area.
"We want to show that tobacco use is not cool," said Craig LeFebvre, a county health department spokesman. "The CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) ranks clean-air policies by different categories. We're shooting for the gold standard — an indoor and outdoor tobacco-free policy."
Grant project manager Barry Freedman said emphasis will be on areas identified in a 2007 survey as having the highest smoking rates.
The University of Missouri-St. Louis, which sits in the county, is already moving toward a total ban on smoking by January 2012. Kathy Kinney, 54, a coordinator in UMSL's alumni relations office, has been a smoker since she was a teenager. She doesn't mind the campus going smoke-free.
"Maybe it will help me quit," she said. After a pause, she added: "I'm sure it will."
Student Troy Peters, 20, doesn't smoke, but he thinks students who do should be allowed to do so outside.
"I think this is definitely the wrong allocation of money in the wrong place," Peters said. "There are all kinds of problems that need to be fixed more than this, and the U.S. is already in so much debt."