ANCHORAGE, Alaska -

With three Anchorage hospitals already among a growing number of local businesses declaring themselves tobacco-free, some people at the University of Alaska Anchorage are hoping to jump on the bandwagon.

It’s a growing trend across the country, with Providence Alaska Medical Center, Alaska Regional Hospital and the Alaska Native Medical Center all saying their campuses are smoke-free. Now a group of UAA students and faculty members are trying to help the university become the first educational campus in the state to go entirely smoke-free.

It’s the goal of a campaign underway that is trying to gain student support to get the issue before UAA Chancellor Tom Case.

“Right now we have a UAA smoke-free task force,” said Gabrial Garcia, a professor of public Health at the university. “Everybody knows that smoking is bad for your health. It causes lung cancer and other respiratory disease; everyone has the right to breathe clean air.”

Currently, smoking is only barred within 20 feet of entrances to UAA campus facilities. This week, however, the smoke-free task force plans to ask Case to reconsider the campus’s smoking policy, hoping to claim a 100 percent smoke-free campus by 2015.

“By implementing a policy like this we can make sure we can protect everyone from the dangers of smoking, and we can also introduce a culture of non-smoking on campus,” Garcia said.

According to the Alaska Department of Health and Social Services, young adults ages 18 to 24 years old are the largest group of smokers by age comparison.

Marge Stoneking, with the American Lung Association, says that’s because young adults are being directly targeted through advertising by the tobacco industry.

“Many people are becoming smokers at the young adult age on campus due to the influence of the industry and the environments,” Stoneking said.

While student advocates for a UAA smoke-free policy say they’ve received mostly positive feedback, the pitch also has its critics.

“Basically there’s a lot of students that say it would be hard for them to cope with the smoke-free policy, because they don’t want to go somewhere else to smoke,” said Yesenia Camarena, a student advocate on the university’s smoke-free task force.

According to a recent study by the task force, however, more than 80 percent of the students attending Alaska’s largest university are non-smokers and would welcome the change.

“They are ready to make this a smoke-free campus. They want everyone to be healthy, they want everyone to be supporting something positive for our smoke-free initiative,” said Camarena.

U.A.A. is also one of hundreds of college campuses in the U.S. currently participating in the “Fresh Air” campus challenge, the goal being a smoke and tobacco free environment for every student.

In addition to the group’s effort to implement a smoke-free campus here in Anchorage by 2015, the group hopes the University of Alaska’s satellite campuses will also participate by the year 2016.